Unite the union this week (May 16) confirmed that its members working at the Lerwick Port Authority are set to re-start industrial action over pay, terms and conditions following a breakdown in negotiations.
Around a dozen key workers will begin a continuous ban on overtime from just past midnight on May 25 at the main port in the Shetland Islands. With significant hours of overtime required to ensure the effective running of operations at the port, the overtime ban will have a ‘severe impact’ on the cruise liners and oil and gas vessels, as well as the general shipping, that use the harbour.
Unite members are demanding that they are paid the same rate as that paid at other UK ports and are challenging a number of detrimental changes to basic pay, overtime, standby and call-out payments, and pension contributions. The changes will further cut the incomes for workers who already derive 40p in every pound of their pay from overtime payments.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said,“Unite’s members at Lerwick Port Authority are simply demanding that they are paid the rate for the job.
“This is a multi-million pound business so it has no business paying Lerwick workers less than port workers get around the UK. Unite is challenging this all the way and our members have the full backing of their union in the fight to secure better jobs, pay and conditions.”
John Clark, Unite industrial officer, added, “The overtime ban will have a severe impact on the port’s operations because they rely on our members working extra hours to ensure no disruptions or delays.
“We warned weeks ago that unless there is progress in talks then we would re-start industrial action. The blames lies exclusively with the Port Authority who continue to pay well below the current national agreements which are set by industry-wide bodies.”
For a number of years, despite the prosperity and expansion of the port, skilled and semi-skilled employees have been paid considerably less than nationally agreed rates. Unite is demanding that the port workers be brought into line with industry standards set by National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry (NAECI) and the Scottish Joint Industry Board (SJIB).
Turnover at Lerwick Port Authority stands at £9.5 million in 2020. Lerwick received the 2021 Port of the Year Award and recently benefited from a £30m upgrade scheme.
By Andrew Brady