Ferries will sail from today as strikes are called off by unions

Picture: Malcolm Wells

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BRITTANY Ferries services should be running as usual by 5pm tonight after a strike by the firm’s French crew was called off.

In the early hours of yesterday morning the results of a union referendum were revealed, and crews agreed a deal which would see the services resume.

The wildcat strikes began on September 21, and were over planned changes to crew pay and working hours as Brittany Ferries struggles to save money.

While some of the crew indicated they would go back to work after the first 24-hour strike, the threat of further action led Brittany Ferries to suspend its services until a final ‘watertight’ resolution could be reached between the firm and the unions.

A spokesman described the situation at the time as ‘quite intolerable for our passengers’.

Roscoff-based Martine Jourdren, group managing director, said: ‘The company has worked hard to negotiate an agreement with the unions which achieves the cost savings and productivity improvements that we were seeking, as well as removing the prospect of any further strike action.’

She praised the work of shore teams, such as those in Portsmouth, who worked hard to ensure passengers were able to sail from Dover to Calais via other ferry operators.

Ms Jourdren added: ‘We know that we have to work hard to regain the confidence of many of our customers, but equally I am very gratified by the huge number of appreciative messages that we have received from those who have been impressed by our attempts to look after them.’

Eight ferries have been laid up in French ports since the firm shut down its service.

The agreement to end the strike comes as The News revealed the industrial action has cost Portsmouth’s port at least £400,000 in lost revenue in the first week of the industrial action alone.

The company pays berth fees and other money to Portsmouth International Port for the right to dock, and as the port is owned by the city council, the public purse was missing out as the ships sat idle in France.

Despite the action, and the threat to its business, Brittany Ferries has said there is no risk of it leaving Portsmouth.

The cross-channel ferry company has been making a loss for about three years, mainly due to unfavourable exchange rates.

To try to stay afloat, the firm planned to cut pay but increase working hours for its crew.

The first ship out of the port today is due to be the 5pm Portsmouth to Santander service, which will have nearly 600 cars and 1,200 passengers on board.

Brittany Ferries said the cost to its business will not be known until the services resume. While it has been forced to refund passengers, it has saved money on wages and fuel bills.