RMT has called on the Scottish government to commit to keeping CalMac Ferry services in permanent public ownership when the current contract ends in September 2024.
The Scottish Ferries union made the demand after it was revealed the deadline for retendering the contract had now passed.
It takes at least 18 months to draw up specifications in the contract and to launch a tendering process for Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services.
The current contract expires in September 2024.
This also means that at the very least the Scottish Government will now have to make a temporary extension by direct award to the existing contract operated by CalMac.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch will meet with MSPs in the Scottish Parliament Tuesday evening to make the case for a “People’s CalMac.”
The event will discuss a report written by Professor Jeanette Findlay from the University of Glasgow on the “Financing and delivery of lifeline ferry services in Scotland.”
Professor Findlay’s report recommends the re-integration of CalMac and CMAL (Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd) should be strongly considered, and that the wider social and economic value of a publicly owned ferry operator must be at the heart of considering the future of the service.
There must also be greater involvement of workers, travellers and businesses in the design and delivery of ferry services, the report says.
Mick Lynch said: “The last thing that communities and workers need is for the Scottish Government to launch a bidding war for the Clyde and Hebrides ferry contract which could encourage companies like P&O and Serco to enter a race to bottom.
“People relying on lifeline ferries need certainty over jobs, training and services. And the Scottish government must work with stakeholders to stave off a full-blown ferry crisis in lifeline communities and to implement a long-term plan for the future of these critically important public services.
“We do not believe there is any legal requirement for the Scottish Government to be compelled to retender the Clyde and Hebrides ferry contract.
“The Scottish government needs to commit to a permanently publicly owned People’s CalMac with proper investment and the exclusion of private profit.
“This would allow for successful long-term planning for improved services and resilience with a direct voice for CalMac workers and passengers.”
RMT parliamentary group convenor Richard Leonard MSP said: “As the debacle over the procurement of vessels 801 and 802 proves, we need to listen much more to the experienced voice of the workers.
“If the Scottish Government had listened to those who work in Port Glasgow instead of hiring ex-rear admirals, turnaround directors and endless consultants we could have avoided these ferries being five years late and three and a half times over budget.
“That is why this report is so important. Our island communities and the workers who serve them deserve to be heard and heeded.”