Pay Dispute Strike of Tug Boat Crew Looms Over UK Ports

The movement of Royal Navy vessels in and out of five UK ports could be severely disrupted, as tug boat crew ballot for strike action in a national pay dispute, Unite the Union informed.

Portsmouth, the home base of the navy’s new GBP 3.1 billion (USD 4.1 billion) aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth, the navy’s largest-ever surface warship, could be affected, according to Unite, the country’s largest union which represents the 350 tug boat crew employed by Serco Marine Services.

The other four ports that could be affected are at Greenock, Faslane, Kyle in Scotland and Devonport, the union said.

Voting papers for strike action will start being delivered from October 6 to the tug boat crew, who work for the company on the Ministry of Defence contract in the five ports. It will close on October 20.

The ballot for strike action follows an overwhelming rejection of the imposition of a 1.8 per cent pay rise for 2016/7 and 2.2 per cent for 2017/8.

“If our members vote for strike action it will create choppy waters industrially and be highly disruptive as naval vessels need the tugs to help navigate them to open water,” Bobby Morton, Unite national officer for the docks, commented.

“Serco Marine Services has imposed a derisory pay award when inflation is taking off – the retail price index (RPI) is standing at 3.9 per cent currently. The maths doesn’t add up for our members… They need to be recognised for the skilled work they do in all weathers,” Morton added.

The only way to settle the dispute is for the company to withdraw the unilateral imposition of the pay award and return to the negotiating table with Unite for constructive talks,” Morton stressed.