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RMT protest at Department for Transport head office over no-deal Brexit contracts including Seaborne Freight

By Katie Davis

Protestors from a maritime union have branded the government an "absolute disgrace" for "not guaranteeing" jobs for UK workers amid its no-deal Brexit ferry deals.

Dozens have gathered outside the Department for Transport's head office after controversial contracts amounting to more than £100 million were handed to three companies to operate ferry services in the event of a no-deal Brexit on March 29.

Included in this arrangement is Seaborne Freight, which is lined up to get £13.8 million to run crossings from Ramsgate port despite owning no ships and not once running a service.

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) has slammed the deals, and is calling for a fair deal for UK workers on the contracts.

General secretary Mick Cash says the government should be ensuring that the deals provide opportunities for seafarers in this country.

Speaking outside the Department for Transport's head office this morning, Mr Cash said: "We are demonstrating outside the Department for Transport, who have decided to spend over £100 million of the tax payer's money on providing ferries as a result of Brexit and not one guarantees employment for UK worker and we think that is an absolute disgrace.

"We want to see employment in our coastal town particularly in and around Kent where we have got ports to and from the continent and the government seems to want to encourage employment of overseas nationals rather than UK nationals - absolute disgrace.

"Brexit is an opportunity for the UK to actually employ UK workers - but it looks like this government has decided to have a different path.

"There's no guarantees been offered by the UK government and with £100 million of taxpayer money you'd think they'd seek guarantee to ensure that that money meant there was employment opportunities for UK workers of all ages. And they're not doing that."

Ramsgate port (6404580)
Ramsgate port (6404580)

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has come under fire since the contract with Seaborne Freight was announced.

It has been confirmed that there will be no taxpayer money for the firm unless and until they deliver the service.

The European Commission is being urged to investigate the UK government over the award of a contract to Seaborne Freight.

The Scottish MEP Alyn Smith has requested an inquiry into the procurement process which led to the firm being handed the deal to provide emergency ferry services.

The government has insisted it followed standard procedures when it awarded the contract and carried out due diligence checks.There will be no taxpayer money for the firm unless and until they provide the service.

Meanwhile, Seaborne has been accused on copying its terms and conditions from a takeaway business after phrases - now removed - such as "placing an order" and "delivery driver" were spotted on it website.

Mr Cash added: "I can't understand how this government has done the so-called due diligence because there seems to be media stories on a daily basis questioning this operation that has been set up.
"It looks dodgy, sounds dodgy and could very well be dodgy."

Mr Grayling has defended the decision to hand the contract to Seaborne Freight to provide extra ferry capacity in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Speaking on the Today Programme on January 2, Mr Grayling said: "I make no apologies for supporting a new British business. The reality is, it's a tightly drawn up contract that requires them to deliver, but I don't think there is anything wrong with government supporting small business.

"It's a new start up business. Government supporting new British business - there's nothing wrong with that."

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