Merchant sailors who supply Royal Navy ships could strike

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THE Royal Fleet Auxilliary could go out on strike, potentially disrupting the Royal Navy’s operations around the globe.

Union members of the navy’s supply fleet, which is manned by merchant sailors, have voted to take industrial action in a dispute with the government over pension changes.

In a ballot of RFA sailors who belong to the RMT shipping union, 60 per cent voted for strike action and 80 per cent for action short of a strike to take place on November 30.

The RFA supplies warships around the world with everything from fuel and food to ammunition and helicopters. But at a time of cuts to the military, RFA ships are being used more by the Admiralty for front-line operations.

RFA Fort Victoria is currently heading the navy’s counter-piracy missions off the coast of Somalia and RFA Wave Ruler is on hand to provide humanitarian aid in the event of a hurricane hitting the Caribbean.

The RMT has not yet announced what form the industrial action will take on November 30.

General secretary Bob Crow said: ‘It is nothing short of a scandal that brave men and women who risk their lives to get supplies through to the ships in war zones around the world are facing an attack on their pensions by this government to help bail out the bankers-led financial crisis.’

RMT national secretary Steve Todd added the government could still ‘haul back from a position’ that would see RFA staff ‘footing the bill for a crisis cooked up in the boardrooms and on the trading floors of the spivs and the speculators’.

Spokesmen for RFA and for the Royal Navy would only confirm they are ‘aware’ of the RMT ballot result and said they were unwilling to comment further until the RMT announces what action it will take on November 30.