A UNION has warned that the potential movement of the new carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth from Portsmouth could be thwarted by tug boat crews’ strike action.
Crews are being balloted for strike action in a national pay dispute.
Unite, the country’s largest representing the 350 tug boat crew employed by Serco Marine Services, said the other four ports that could affected are at Greenock, Faslane, Kyle in Scotland and Devonport.
Voting papers for strike action will start being delivered from Friday to the crews, 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.
Unite national officer for the docks Bobby Morton said: ‘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.
‘Serco Marine Services has imposed a derisory pay award when inflation is taking off – the retail price index is standing at 3.9 per cent currently.
‘The maths doesn’t add up for our members who are struggling with rising household bills. They need to be recognised for the skilled work they do in all weathers.
‘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.’
Rob Hales, Serco’s Maritime Services Director, said: ‘Serco Maritime Services has given our staff a generous pay increase of four per cent over two years and more recently we have made a further good offer that would result in a total pay increase of 4.4 per cent for 2016 and 2017. This is despite the fact that this contract is making significant losses and we are therefore disappointed that Unite have chosen to ballot for industrial action without offering members the opportunity to vote on this recently improved offer.
‘If this ballot does lead to industrial action, we are confident that we can work with the Royal Navy to find ways that will minimise the impact on the vast majority of the services we provide for their ships, including the new aircraft carriers.’