HARBOUR chiefs have defended a decision to seek redundancies at Greenock Ocean Terminal after union bosses described the move as 'rash' and 'premature'.

The Telegraph told last week how Peel Ports are preparing for a raft of job losses in response to the decimation of cruise ship and other trade due to coronavirus.

But Unite Scotland — which represents the 89-strong local workforce — insist there should be no compulsory redundancies while the UK Government job retention scheme is still in effect.

The union's regional officer, Pat McIlvogue, said they were 'at a loss' as to why the company had made the decision.

Peel — whose dual roles as both harbour authority and private company have been called into question by senior Inverclyde councillors recently — insist they have no choice but to make cuts.

A spokesman for the firm said: "The economic destruction caused by the coronavirus outbreak is widespread and unforgiving and, like all other port operators worldwide, we are right in the frontline.

"It is hugely regrettable that we're being forced to consider redundancies.

"Until now, we've managed as best we can to mitigate a number of potential redundancies and will continue to do so, but the pandemic has resulted in a significant loss of business."

Peel is facing questions over the plan from Inverclyde MSP Stuart McMillan, while council leader Stephen McCabe stated last week that the local authority stands ready to help the company.

Referring to the firm's robust financial footing, Mr McMillan said: "I would hope that those with the broadest shoulders, those continuing to be able to operate during this outbreak, would not make people redundant."

The Telegraph understands that 15 potential redundancies are being considered at Ocean Terminal

Unite's Mr McIlvogue said: "It's obviously a very worrying time for the workforce but we will be doing all we can to get Clydeport to reconsider this rash decision because everything must be done to save jobs on the Clyde."

Peel Ports' spokesman said: "We were scheduled to welcome almost 90 cruise vessels at the Greenock Ocean Terminal this year, but that trade has been wiped out by COVID-19 and there have been dramatic reductions in other cargoes as world trade decreases.

"Several members of staff indicate they are interested in voluntary redundancy, leaving us with around 14 more potential redundancies being considered across all areas of Clydeport.

"Our recent investment programme at Greenock is a clear sign of our long-term commitment to the Clyde but we have difficult decisions to make in the short-term to ensure we are in the best possible shape to expand again as things improve."