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Craig Anderson reports from Oban
"The two sides said they have reached an agreement"
 real 28k

Friday, 26 May, 2000, 07:54 GMT 08:54 UK
CalMac given morale warning
CalMac talks
The two parties held last minute negotiations
Ferry company, Caledonian MacBrayne, has been urged to raise staff morale to avoid future damaging industrial action.

Western Isles councillor, Donald McLean, was speaking after the officers' union, Numast, called off a planned four-day stoppage over the busy holiday weekend.

Union officials said they had "postponed" their action following a meeting with management in Oban and would recommend that members accept a package, which is worth 5.75% over two years.

CalMac funnel
The dispute has rumbled on for a year
But an estimated million pounds had already been lost to the Hebridean economy as tourists and businesses cancelled bookings

Councillor McLean said CalMac must turn its attention to its personnel to ensure the dispute is not repeated.

And Numast said management needed a shake-up because relationships with staff had virtually broken down

As attention turns towards the role played by management, pressure is expected to grow for Highlanders to be appointed to two vacancies on the state-owned firm's board.

'Credibility' test

They were advertised earlier this year and announcements are thought to be imminent.

BBC Scotland's Highlands reporter, Iain MacDonald said that after the events of this week, the identity of the new members was likely to be seen as a test of the company's credibility in its heartland.

Transport Minister, Sarah Boyack, welcomed the agreement but said: "It is regrettable that the threat of strike action has already caused some disruption."

Brian Orrell, Numast
Brian Orrell: Recommending acceptance
Talks in Liverpool collapsed on Tuesday evening with the two sides coming within half a percentage point of each other in the dispute over a pay deal originally due in spring last year.

Speaking after Thursday's talks, Numast general secretary, Brian Orrell, said: "The negotiations have been taking place for 12 months now and I think there has been a serious deterioration in the relationship between the officers and the management structure which have made life difficult.

"We have now reached a situation where we have got a package, we are making a recommendation to the officers, we've postponed the industrial action until the outcome of that is known and we will recommend that they will pick up the acceptance."

Captain John Simkins
Captain John Simkins: "Public duty"
Mr Orrell said the union and management would now have to work at repairing the relationships damaged during the 12-month dispute.

CalMac managing director, Captain John Simkins, defended his company's position amid anger that both parties had seemed unable to reach a deal on previous occasions.

He said: "CalMac understands the damage that can be done by divisive action with its staff members but it does have a responsibility to make sure that it negotiates properly and effectively.

"Settling with one group has repercussions to other groups within the company and we have to bear in mind that we are a public company, we do spend public money and we have to treat it very carefully and honestly."

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See also:

25 May 00 | Scotland
New offer as CalMac strike looms
24 May 00 | Scotland
Last attempt to avoid ferry strike
16 Mar 00 | Scotland
Sunday ferries sail closer
26 May 00 | Scotland
Airports agreement reached
14 Jan 00 | Scotland
CalMac 'sale' threat fears
25 May 00 | UK
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