Sailing halted as ferry workers protest at end of winter services

 

MEMBERS of the Seamen's Union of Ireland refused to work the last sailing before winter of the Irish Ferries vessel St Killian, a company spokesman said yesterday. The all freight sailing was due to leave Rosslare for Le Havre yesterday evening.

The spokesman said the freight had been rerouted through Britain, except for a small consignment of live animals. Irish Ferries has cancel led its winter services between Ireland and France. The Government has rejected the company's call for a subsidy.

Mr Tom Kitt, Fianna Fail's spokesman on labour affairs, yesterday called on the Government to reconsider its decision, "to prevent the closure of the Irish Ferries continental service between Ireland and France, thus saving the 200 jobs involved."

Mr Kitt said the Government should immediately grant the £2 million subsidy the company had requested to meet the cost of operating a winter service.

"Their main competitors on this route, Brittany Ferries, have a strong competitive advantage as they are receiving an operating subsidy of £40 million from the French government", Mr Kitt added. "A subsidy for Irish Ferries is therefore justified so that they can compete on a level playing field", Mr Kitt said.

He also called on the Government to extend to Irish seafarers a concession given to their UK counterparts working for ferry companies whereby they pay no income tax if they spend more than 182 days outside the country.

The Irish Ferries spokesman said it now awaited a decision by the Seamen's Union of Ireland on whether it would attempt to extend its industrial action to the Irish Sea routes. The union could not be reached for comment last night.