Wightlink ferry staff to strike over union rep's sacking

Wightlink ferry Staff on Wightlink's Portsmouth to Isle of Wight routes are expected to walk out over Christmas

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Union members on a cross-Solent ferry service have voted for strike action after the dismissal of a trade union representative.

Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) said staff on Wightlink's Isle of Wight to Portsmouth service will walk out over the Christmas period.

Their action comes after the dismissal of Paul Kelly on "trumped-up charges", the union said.

Wightlink said he was sacked over a serious health and safety breach.

The RMT said its members would take 24 hours of strike action from 00:01 GMT until 23:59 GMT on 24 December 2011 and again from 00:01 GMT until 23:59 GMT on 26th December 2011.

The union also said staff would not work any overtime or rest days from 24 December until further notice.

The RMT said ballot papers were returned by 117 members with 87 calling for industrial action and 30 against.

'Defend members'

Wightlink pointed out 57 workers failed to vote.

The ferry firm said Mr Kelly was dismissed for gross misconduct relating to a "serious breach of health and safety policy".

The RMT said Mr Kelly was involved in a minor incident over protective clothing but that the issue "suddenly escalated", resulting in his dismissal.

The union said Mr Kelly was sacked because he led a campaign against new rosters and had highlighted management deficiencies.

Bob Crow, RMT general secretary, said: "[Paul Kelly's] only real crime is to continually defend the members he represents, regularly challenging the company and ensuring all agreements are followed correctly.

"RMT remains available for talks and we will pursue all channels to obtain justice in Paul Kelly's case."

Wightlink said: "[We are] currently working on contingency plans to ensure passengers travel arrangements to and from the Isle of Wight can be fulfilled.

"The company apologises in advance to its customers for any disruption that will be caused by the forthcoming strike."

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