Portsmouth MMD seeking to re-structure workers’ contracts

The MMD quayside in Portsmouth
The MMD quayside in Portsmouth

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A PROMISE has been given that a company taken over by a council to stop it from folding is not in fresh trouble.

Portsmouth shipping firm MMD, based at Portsmouth International Port, is consulting 115 of its staff over potential changes to their hours in a bid to modernise the way the business operates.

I think this is the right thing to do; the council has to make sure the business becomes profitable, and that means having more flexible contracts.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Portsmouth Lib Dem group leader

The 45-day consultation ends on May 14.

Portsmouth City Council – which took over the business in 2008 – says no redundancies are planned.

It comes after figures compiled by Southsea resident Jerry Brown showed more than £16m of taxpayers’ cash has been used to prop up the company to keep it going since the council took it on.

The fruit importer has been given £16.7m by the council, but the authority’s finance boss Chris Ward says it has generated more than £16m thanks to this investment.

Michael Lawther, the council’s deputy chief executive, said: ‘In order to meet the challenges of a changing business, we need to better match the contractual agreements of our staff with the requirements of our customers.

‘This will better enable MMD to become sustainable and viable, thus providing long-term employment.

‘This is not unusual for this sort of business and will modernise the way staff’s shift patterns are managed.’

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Portsmouth Lib Dem group leader, said he’s not concerned by the consultation.

He said: ‘This is the right thing to do; the council has to make sure the business becomes profitable, and that means having more flexible contracts.

‘It shouldn’t lead to any redundancies.

‘It’s just about changing terms and conditions.’

But Mr Brown, who has been poring over the council’s big finance deals to check how taxpayers’ money is being spent, said: ‘When the council bought the business, it came with a set of restrictive working practices.

‘This is a well overdue change in the way things are being managed in this industry.

‘I still have concerns about the future of the company.

‘What I have been doing is looking at the items of big spend the council is making.

‘Lots of things are being cut, we need to find ways of saving money. If you look at the budget spend, month after month, £200,000, £300,000 and £400,000 is being given as a grant to MMD in real cash terms.’

The News recently asked the council through the Freedom of Information Act whether any settlement agreements – used by employers to avoid potentially costly tribunals over problems staff have had during their employment – had been paid out at MMD.

But The News was told MMD is a separate firm and the council does not hold that information.