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Letter from Tony Ayton, retired ITF Inspector for Ireland

7th August 2008.

Mr Noel Dempsey TD
Minister for Transport & Marine
Office of the Minister
Leeson Lane
Dublin 2

Re; Ferry Services on the Swansea Cork route

Dear Minister Dempsey.

As you will be aware, there are now renewed efforts being made in Cork, by a number of good political people and commercial organisations, to get a new ferry service up and running on the Swansea Cork route.  As the former ITF inspector for Ireland, I am delighted to see these renewed efforts and were it not for the unfortunate fact that I now have incapacities caused by illness, I would volunteer my services to those involved, to help in any way they thought appropriate.

The one concern I have is the same one I have raised with you before and that is that it is important to ensure from the outset that the pay and conditions of the crew, on whatever vessel ends up on the route, is of a decent standard.  I know that I do not have to pursue you and/or the Senior Officials of your Department on this point, insofar as at the EU Transport meeting in Brussels on 5th Dec 2005, the Irish Government delegation presented a submission, the salient point of which was as follows….

“ Ireland believes that since ferries usually operate continuously between the same two ports, pay and conditions on such ferries should reflect the local situation, thus making it possible for local workers to gain employment on the ferries”

I think it is quite obvious that your Governments policy, if put into effect on the Swansea Cork ferry route, means that the lowest paid crewmember on board would actually have in real terms and hourly rate of pay that was not less favourable than the National Minimum wage. (Or perhaps the one in the UK)  When I use the words ‘in real terms’ I mean a pay rate and wage structure that is transparent and not one that has to rely on an exercise in mathematical chicanery, involving the working hours and wage, etc to make it seem much better than it actually is.  In that regard care has to be taken to guard against a crew being recruited in bulk from say an Eastern European crewing agency and arriving here with contracts of employment already signed and everybody saying that the terms and conditions are confidential and are not to be enquired into.  As a person experienced in dealing with these kinds of matters, let me tell you, it would never actually be the crew themselves who would want to maintain confidentiality and of course, I hardly have to tell you that the confidentiality is never there to hide overpayment of a crew.  You will be aware that some months before the previous operator on the Swansea Cork route ceased trading, Cork City Council passed a resolution calling for an investigation by the Labour Relations Commission, of the pay and conditions of the crew of the vessel then on the route.

Thank you in anticipation that you will take into account the foregoing points.

Tony Ayton
Retired ITF inspector for Ireland