Ministry of Defence scramble to deal with strike by Royal Fleet Auxiliary as pay row deepens

Royal Fleet Auxiliary Tidespring, right, sailing next to the Type 23 frigate HMS Sutherland during a replenishment at sea off England's south coast.
Royal Fleet Auxiliary Tidespring, right, sailing next to the Type 23 frigate HMS Sutherland during a replenishment at sea off England's south coast.
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DEFENCE chiefs in Whitehall have been scrambled to come up with an action plan amid fears a strike by hundreds of Royal Fleet Auxiliary personnel could affect Royal Navy operations.

The workers are staging the industrial action next month after a bitter dispute over pay deepened.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) will launch a campaign of action from July 2, including only working contracted hours, and not preparing food for social functions such as cocktail parties.

The union said its 700 members had voted overwhelmingly for action in protest at the imposition of a 1.5 per cent pay rise.

RMT members taking part in humanitarian or disaster relief operations or who are reacting to a military conflict will be exempt from the action, the union added.

The Ministry of Defence is now looking into the situation and drawing up plans to mitigate the impact on the Senior Service.

A spokeswoman from the MoD told The News: ‘We are aware of the RMT’s decision to undertake industrial action and are assessing their proposals so we can take appropriate measures to ensure operations continue during this period.’

The MoD said the pay rise given to RFA personnel for 2018/19 was ‘set in accordance’ with Treasury guidance.

However, union activists branded the increase a disgrace and said it would amount to a ‘pay cut in real terms’ for staff.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘It is disgraceful that our Royal Fleet Auxiliary members, staff delivering the supplies life-line to the Royal Navy that is crucial to our national safety and security, have had a derisory pay increase imposed on them which doesn't even keep pace with the cost of living.

‘That amounts to a pay cut in real terms and is wholly unacceptable and that is why we are now moving to a programme of industrial action.

‘RMT will not stand by while RFA staff are denied basic pay justice.’

The RFA is the logistical lifeline for the Royal Navy, providing everything from food and fuel to ammunition and other supplies.

The organisation, which is the uniformed civilian wing of the navy, is also critical in supporting Britain’s two new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, on operations.