ORKNEY Ferries chiefs have warned of possible service disruption to lifeline services as officers voted in favour of industrial action in a long-running dispute over pay.

Members of the maritime professionals’ union Nautilus International became the second union to vote in favour of action in what it described as a "massive majority".

The ballot showed 21 voting for taking industrial action short of a strike, with just one member against.

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Nautilus, which represents ship masters, captains, officers, officer trainees, ship pilots and harbourmasters said it had informed Orkney Ferries of the result and has indicated its willingness to meet management for further discussions on the issues.

It comes after members of the RMT union announced industrial action by its members working for Orkney Ferries. From today (January 3), workers were to take part in a work to rule.

HeraldScotland:

The unions claim its members in Orkney have seen their income fall behind the average for ferry workers in the UK.

Orkney Islands Council, which run the services, says the industrial action announced by two of the three ferry unions presents a "considerable challenge" and warned: "Although we will make every effort to mitigate the potential impact, there is the risk of service disruption."

A council spokesman said: "We remain committed to positive dialogue with the unions. But we have made clear we are unable to close the pay gap unless the council receives fair funding from the Scottish Government for Orkney’s internal ferries service, something which the council is continuing to work hard to achieve."

Orkney Ferries runs nine dedicated inter-island services between Orkney's mainland and thirteen island destinations.

HeraldScotland:

Measures being taken as part of the work to rule include strictly working to their job description and declining to work overtime.

Members of the RMT union who took part in the ballot nad backed strike action by about 80%, with a higher number supporting other forms of industrial action.

Nautilus national ferry organiser Micky Smyth commented: “The ballot results are very clear and reflect the long-running frustration of our members about their pay and conditions.

“Independent research conducted in response to those concerns demonstrated that the salaries of our Orkney Ferries members are around 10% below those of other officers carrying out the same duties in comparable ferry companies."

HeraldScotland:

Nautilus said that its 2017 pay claim sought an increase over the March RPI inflation rate of 3.2%, as well as a further seven days of annual leave entitlement.

But it said management has failed to move from their position of an offer for a 1.5% increase, which "falls far short of our members’ aspirations".

Mr. Smyth added: “We have attempted to resolve this matter amicably, but to no avail so far. We therefore urge the company to think very seriously about the emphatic results of this ballot and to revert with meaningful proposals to address the concerns of our members.”

Funding for Orkney’s inter-island ferry service is included in the annual grant paid by the Scottish Government to Orkney Islands Council to run local services.

But the council says the amount provided by Government is "considerably less" than the actual cost of operating Orkney’s lifeline inter-island ferry service and each year the authority has had to make up the shortfall.

The council said the deficit was £2.9 million in 2016-17 and is predicted to nearly double to £5.5 million in 2018-19.

A council source said: "The council argues that this is unsustainable and is asking the government to fully fund the inter-island ferry service.

"With lifeline ferry services to island communities off the west coast of Scotland fully funded by the Scottish Government, the council sees this is a fair and reasonable request."

A Scottish Government spokesman said that despite cuts to the Scottish Government's overall budget they have continued to treat local government "fairly".

The spokesman added: “Responsibility for internal ferries remains with the local authority, but our pledge of further dialogue on this issue shows we remain committed to the principle of fair funding in the provision of ferry services and ferry infrastructure.”