UNION chiefs have called on the Scottish Government to “untie the hands” of CalMac to help resolve the dispute over pay, conditions and pensions or sort it out themselves.

The RMT will today meet with Keith Brown, the cabinet secretary for infrastructure, investment and cities, to “hopefully move towards a resolution”.

A resolution meeting between CalMac and the RMT was due to take place yesterday but was postponed by CalMac because of “unforeseen circumstances”.

The RMT has threatened to “up the ante” with more strikes on Scotland’s lifeline ferries unless a deal can be struck with the operator over pay and conditions.

Union members want assurances over job security, pay and conditions and pensions in a protest at a tendering process that could see routes change hands from publicly owned CalMac to private firm Serco.

CalMac’s contract to run the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services comes to an end next year and the Scottish Government has put the contract out to tender to comply with EU law. Two thirds of state-owned CalMac’s ferry services were cancelled on Friday during a 24-hour strike by 700 RMT members.

Gordon Martin, RMT’s regional organiser, said: “The meeting has been postponed for personal unforeseen circumstances. We have no issue with that and we are hoping it will be rescheduled for later in the week.”

He said he hoped to get “something concrete” from the meeting with Brown today, adding: “All we are hoping for is that at last somebody is going to listen to us.

“We have had several meetings with Keith Brown and Derek Mackay but so far it has been a dialogue with the disinterested.

“What I am hoping for this time is that they are going to show a bit of interest and hopefully move towards resolution.

“CalMac have told us several times there hands are tied; if their hands are tied it’s got to be the government that is tying them, so they will need to untie them and let CalMac sort it out, or get involved themselves and sort it out with us. We need a good, full discussion to decide what we are going to do.

“We don’t want to prejudice any talks but we need something concrete from them. We were not looking to cause disruption but unfortunately due to management intransigence we had no other option. Many of our members are islanders themselves so they know the disruption it was going to cause. They didn’t enter into it lightly.”

A second union representing ferry workers, which is preparing to ballot its members on strike action, was also due to attend the meeting yesterday.

The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association represents 100 ticket office staff and managers at CalMac.

A CalMac spokesman said: “Further discussions had been scheduled to take place between representatives of the company and of the RMT and TSSA union.

"Due to unforeseen circumstances it has been necessary to postpone these discussions, and we are currently looking to organise a new date and time.”