PLANNED strikes which could cripple Wightlink Ferries at Christmas could be called off, a high-profile union leader said on a visit to Portsmouth last night.
RMT union general secretary Bob Crow said after a meeting of members at Fratton’s Railway Club that he would advise a re-think over the action, due to take place on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.
The dramatic twist came at the end of a day during which RMT union members announced they had voted to take the action.
The decision came after a ballot of Wightlink RMT staff polled 117 votes – 87 in favour of a strike and 30 against.
The ballot was called after the sacking of RMT representative Paul Kelly.
The union claims Mr Kelly was unfairly dismissed in November because of a ‘management vendetta’.
Mr Kelly said last night that he had now accepted a new job and had ‘given up his battle’.
And in the light of that news, Mr Crow said he would advise the RMT’s executive committee that the action should be called off. For that to happen, members would have to be balloted again.
Mr Kelly, who would not give details of his new job, said: ‘I worked the ferries out of love for the job. I stood up for people and I stood up for what I thought was right, but I have paid the ultimate price for that.
‘But I’ve given up my battle now and I’ve done it for the greater good. I don’t want other people to start losing their jobs because of me and I don’t want them to be in danger of losing the terms and conditions of their job.’
After the rowdy meeting at the Railway Club, Mr Crow said: ‘Paul has a family to support and I wish him all the best in his new job.
‘But the message we really have to get out there is that we will not give up without a fight if one of our members in victimised or unfairly treated.
‘Paul is still continuing with the employment tribunal and we will support him all the way. But I will now be advising that the strikes be called off.’
Wightlink said it ‘deeply regrets’ the planned RMT action and insists Mr Kelly had breached safety procedures.
It said it was making contingency plans with competitors. Customers who would be affected by the strikes can call Wightlink on 0871 376 1000.