Latest news

Fair Work in Practice - RMT Case Study: Security

Scottish Union Learning has been working closely with unions across Scottish Apprenticeships to develop apprenticeship standards and frameworks, to progress apprenticeship opportunities with employers and to support Apprentices in their workplaces.

This is the first in a series of five apprenticeship case studies from a range of unions working in different sectors. Each case study will focus on a specific Fair Work dimension in practice, although the Fair Work dimensions do not stand in isolation from each other.


"Security of employment, work and income are important foundations of a successful life." Fair Work Framework 2016

RMT: A Maritime Industry Case Study

by Dan Henderson, RMT

CalMac Ferries are the largest ferry operator in the UK and deliver lifeline services to the Clyde and Hebridean islands off the west coast of Scotland. They have over 1,700 employees, both ashore and onboard. RMT and CalMac have worked very closely, over a number of years, to utilise the Maritime Occupations Framework to deliver high quality Modern Apprenticeships in partnership with City of Glasgow College.

3 apprentices in a training centre

The company’s successful Modern Apprenticeship programme for onboard Deck, Engine and Retail roles has produced over 120 Modern Apprentices in the last eight years. Those who have completed their training have now progressed to full-time employment with over 90% being retained by the company in what is a very competitive job market. Unlike most other shipping companies, CalMac offers their Modern Apprentices a full, all-expenses-paid journey through their training; from accepting the Modern Apprenticeship offer, to their eventual graduation.

CalMac have an established a mentoring programme which has been developed and delivered by RMT and Scottish Union Learning. Mentoring is available to all Modern Apprentices when they start their training. The core aim of the programme is to support the apprentice moving into a unique workplace, enabling them to gain skills, knowledge and understanding for a secure future in the maritime industry. Mentors offer day-to-day guidance to assist apprentices’ personal development, and support communication and the adoption of positive behaviours.

RMT, through the learning project with Scottish Union Learning and Money Advice Scotland, offer financial advice sessions to apprentices as part of their induction. Other additional learning of the apprenticeship induction include training on: Mental Health and Wellbeing; Diversity and Inclusion; Cyber Security and Social Media Awareness.

All Modern Apprentices are automatically covered by the collective bargaining agreement negotiated by RMT and CalMac. This gives Modern Apprentices the same security as all full-time employees.

CalMac were the first UK ferry company to be accredited as a Living Wage employer. This applies to all employees, both ashore and onboard. In addition, apprentice rates of pay are recognised as being significantly higher than the maritime industry average. The lowest paid seagoing Modern Apprentices are paid almost double the minimum apprentice wage, and their pay increases incrementally until the completion of their training. When apprentices complete their apprenticeship, they are automatically paid the same rate as all other workers in that role.

15 apprentices, some who are holding up certificates

Modern Apprentices have the opportunity to progress in their chosen careers through clear pathways which are negotiated by RMT and lay out routes for achievable career progression. These opportunities are openly available to all apprentices once qualified. Retail apprentices, as an example, have a clear pathway which rewards them as they gain specific industry-regulated qualifications.

I know that each of us who have come out of the Modern Apprentice programme have been more qualified, more experienced and with the possibility of a fantastic career for life with the scope to rise through the ranks.

Craig Evans, ex-Retail Modern Apprentice and now Senior Catering Rating.

In addition, the RMT collective bargaining agreement offers employees incremental sick-pay cover from the start of their employment, and this rises to six months full pay (and six months half-pay) as the apprenticeship progresses. All seagoing employees, including apprentices, are automatically covered by this agreement which also provides the security of flexible working arrangements to align with family life and caring commitments.

Through negotiation with RMT, CalMac have a policy of no compulsory redundancies which covers all employees in the organisation and ensures added security in uncertain times.

The security of a well-planned retirement is something that should be afforded to all workers, and when apprentices move to full-time employment, they are offered membership of the CalMac final salary pension scheme.