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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 December 2005, 08:35 GMT
Ship's sailing ends ferry dispute
Irish Ferries vessel Isle of Inishmore
The Isle of Inishmore was in Pembroke Dock for three weeks
A ferry which had been moored in Pembroke Dock for three weeks has finally set sail, ending a dispute between unions and the ferry company.

Irish Ferries' vessel the Isle of Inishmore, left the port at 0245 GMT on Thursday, after four crew members who were barricaded on board disembarked.

Irish Ferries crews had been protesting over the company's plans to replace staff with cheaper foreign workers.

A deal was reached on Wednesday after talks between unions and the firm.

A second Irish Ferries vessel, the Ulysses, had been moored in Holyhead since 24 November, while the Jonathan Swift fast ferry was also left moored in Dublin during the dispute.

It has been worth it - it's struck a blow for unionism
Crew member Gary Jones

Both ferries sailed on Wednesday afternoon after the dispute was settled earlier in the day.

The dispute centred on Irish Ferries' plan to replace 543 crew members with staff from Eastern Europe who were willing to work for lower wages.

The row began in September but escalated last month when crew members barricaded themselves on board the Isle of Inishmore and the Ulysses at Pembroke Dock and Holyhead.

Unions and supporters held rallies supporting the crews in Wales and Ireland with thousands taking part in a day of protest in Irish towns and cities on 9 December.

Four Irish Ferries crew members with Gary Jones (far right)
The four crew members left the ferry late on Wednesday

The crews' union, Siptu, said on Wednesday it had secured favourable terms and conditions for those who wished to stay with the company.

The union said it had also won a pay package for foreign workers which would bring wages up to at least the Irish minimum wage - a key objective for negotiators.

The union lost its fight to prevent the re-flagging of the company's vessels abroad, but said it had established a framework to protect workers legally, irrespective of the country in which the ships were registered.

The crew members barricaded aboard the Ulysses voted in favour of the new terms and the ship left Holyhead on Wednesday afternoon.

Four men on board the Isle of Inishmore finally left at around midnight and the ferry left Pembroke Dock at 0245 GMT, arriving in Rosslare at 0630 GMT.

Protests in Dublin
Protests were held to support the Irish Ferries workers

Union leaders praised the one Welsh and three Irish crew members who barricaded themselves into the engine control room.

Paul Smyth, of Siptu, said: "They have showed that there is more than money and more than financial gain and there are principles."

The Welsh crew member involved, Gary Jones, told BBC Radio Wales: "It has been worth it - it's struck a blow for unionism.

"For me it's undecided, I'll have to look at the document to see if it's a viable proposition or not.

Irish Ferries apologised to customers for the disruption to its sailing schedule and said its sailing would return to normal as soon as possible.




SEE ALSO:
Ferry dispute 'takes a bad turn'
13 Dec 05 |  Northern Ireland
Show of support for ferry workers
10 Dec 05 |  South West Wales
Irish protest over ferry dispute
09 Dec 05 |  North West Wales
Protest held over ferry dispute
07 Dec 05 |  North West Wales


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