Taxpayer-funded ferry routes off the west coast of Scotland will not be broken up and sold off to private operators, the transport minister has confirmed.
Unions feared the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services would be "unbundled" and sold to "predatory private companies".
They have welcomed the Scottish Government`s decision to retender the routes as a single service and stick with Government-owned company CalMac.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which represents private companies, said it was "disappointed" with the decision, arguing that opening the routes up to competition would improve efficiency and responsiveness.
Labour warned the "good" announcement provides "only three years of certainty" for CalMac and suggested the SNP administration was delaying future decisions on the services until after the independence referendum.
Transport minister Keith Brown said: "I can confirm that we intend to take forward the procurement of the new contract for the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services as a single contract.
"We have looked closely at the options available to us to drive up ferry service standards and no compelling case that tendering individual routes, or 'unbundling' the current contract, has been put to me.
"This decision will allay fears stoked by some that we are seeking to break up routes for individual operators to run.
"To facilitate a thorough and robust procurement for the new contract, CalMac are to be awarded a new three-year interim contract to deliver services when the current contract expires next autumn."
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "The confirmation today of the three-year delay on the CalMac tendering is a massive victory for the RMT campaign against privatisation and in defence of jobs and working conditions. It is also a massive victory for the users of these lifeline services."