CalMac are to be balloted for strike action after as talks over a pay dispute have collapsed.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union is preparing to ballot staff for industrial action after two previous rounds of pay negotiations with the ferry firm.

Further talks have broken down after the state-owned ferry operator refused to increase their offer despite posting a pre-tax profit of £7.1m last year.

And the generaly secretary of the TSSA transport union issues a stark warning for CalMac managing director Robbie Drummond today “we won’t hesitate to ballot for strike action”.

His warning came after last ditch talks to avoid a dispute broke down amid union accusations of Transport Scotland interference.

Earlier this week pay talks broke down when TSSA rejected a “derisory” pay offer of 0.5%.

HeraldScotland: CalMac ferry

An “avoidance of disputes” meeting with managing director Robbie Drummond and other trade unions took place on Friday, after which RMT said the company had failed to accept the offer amounts to a pay cut for ferry crews and other workers.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash described the “derisory pay award” as “a serious kick in the teeth” for staff who worked on ferries serving west coast islands during the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: “Our negotiators have tried over a series of meetings to get a cost of living award for essential lifeline ferry workers.

“Despite their best efforts again today, the CalMac managing director has given the same response as his management colleagues have issued from the first meeting on October 7.

“It’s become increasingly apparent that Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government are putting pressure on CalMac to hold a line which will see our members financially disadvantaged.

“This is not acceptable to RMT and we will be balloting our members to secure financial fairness for members and their families in these uncertain times.”

Mr Cortes added: “CalMac’s workers have kept the ferries running, delivering lifeline services to island communities during a global pandemic. Clearly, 0.5% is a derisory offer, amounting to a pay cut just before Christmas. Our members have rightly rejected it.

"Today Robbie Drummond attended an 'avoidance of dispute' meeting with our reps where we might reasonably have expected a better offer. Instead Drummond doubled down on his Scrooge impression, repeating the offer we’ve already rejected.

“Last week Mr Drummond sent a glossy postcard to every member of staff, thanking them for their 'support, understanding and commitment' serving the island communities throughout the pandemic. This week we’ve seen what he really thinks of his staff.

“The ball is in CalMac’s court now. Our members have made it clear that they’re furious at this insulting offer and ready to be balloted for strike action. If CalMac don’t pick up the phone with a sensible offer we will not hesitate to ballot for strike action."

Mr Drummond said: “CalMac has suffered significant and unprecedented financial pressures due to Covid-19 and it is likely that these will continue to have an impact for some time.

“Despite this, we are committed to rewarding staff in recognition of their determination to provide a high quality and safe lifeline service during an extremely difficult period.

“We are thankful for the support from Transport Scotland under our contract, which has enabled us to protect every job during the pandemic and to provide furloughed employees 100% of their pay.

“We also took steps to ensure that their safety and wellbeing was well protected.

“This pay offer is the same as the current rate of inflation and is being made with our staff in mind – providing a fair and generous offer in the current circumstances.

“This offer ensures the best possible route for us all going forward as we get through the pandemic together.”

TSSA says CalMac made two offers to the unions.

The first was a one year deal of 0.5%. The second was as a two year deal, where workers would get a 0.5% rise in the first year and a retail price inflation rise in year two. The union said both offers were rejected overwhelmingly.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “CalMac pay policy sits outside the coverage of the Scottish Government’s pay policy and, as such, this is a matter for CalMac and the unions concerned. We would urge management and unions to continue to engage in meaningful dialogue to reach a mutually agreeable outcome that avoids impacting staff and ferry users at an already difficult time for communities served by CalMac.”