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Compulsory facemasks inside CalMac ferries and the use of perspex screens are to stay despite Scotland’s Covid restrictions easing.
CalMac’s managing Director Robbie Drummond said staff’s safety has always been ‘number one priority’ along with passengers and that will continue.
His message follows a call by ferries’ union RMT for support for ferry workers following the First Minister’s announcement that Covid-19 restrictions in Scotland would move to ‘beyond Level 0’ from August 9.
‘We absolutely recognise that this is a difficult time with our staff working under enormous pressure and coming out of the pandemic we are facing rapid passenger growth.
‘Ensuring the safety of our colleagues and our passengers has been our number one priority throughout the pandemic and that will continue to be the case,’ said Mr Drummond.
He added: ‘To reduce the risk of new Covid-19 strains spreading, some mitigations will remain in place on our vessels. Face coverings will continue to be mandatory inside ferries and ports unless exempt, and increased vessel turnaround times will continue to allow for enhanced cleaning. Perspex screens will be retained in ports and on vessels for the protection of staff and passengers. We will also continue to encourage passengers to stick to guidelines and we take a zero-tolerance approach to increasing aggression shown towards out colleagues on the front line.’
RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said ferry workers in Scotland must be supported with the sudden increases in passenger traffic expected with the lifting of restrictions.
He warned the return of pre-pandemic passenger and traffic numbers needed to be handled safely and said the union would not tolerate its members being blamed or abused for any further ferry network problems that were not their fault.
Mr Lynch added removal of any restrictions needed to be handled with particular care.
‘We would also draw attention to the fact that over the last 18 months, the majority of CalMac staff have been operating ageing ferries with dramatically reduced carrying capacity.
‘On top of the ferry procurement fiasco, the series of breakdowns, delays and disruptions in recent months has severely depleted service resilience on the lifeline Clyde and Hebrides network.
‘A sudden return of pre-pandemic passenger traffic has to be handled cautiously and safely. RMT will not tolerate our members being blamed or abused for any further ferry network problems which are the result of the SNP Government’s failure of Scotland’s iconic public sector ferry services,’ he said.
Caption: CalMac will be keeping some of its protective measures to stop the risk of Covid spreading, despite Scotland moving out of Level 0