Royal Naval shipping movements around Plymouth will be plunged into ‘Christmas chaos’ when specialist tug operators at Devonport’s naval base employed by outsourcer Serco Marine go on strike, Unite warned today (December 15).
Around 40 tractor tug crew members will go strike from 25 December after Serco Marine announced that their working pattern would change from one week on and one week off to three weeks on and three weeks off. The duty rota changes also mean the workers will lose annual leave allocations.
The first strike, which begins at 7am on Friday December 25, will continue until 6.59am on Wednesday, December 30 The second strike begins on Thursday, January 11.
In a ballot with a 92.3 per cent turnout, 97.2 per cent voted in favour of strike action.
Unite said that its members ‘have taken the difficult decision to strike’ because the changes will ‘dangerously increase fatigue’ amongst tug crews, who deal with a whole host of military vessels, including nuclear submarines. Moving from a one-week to a three-week rota will also adversely affect the crew members’ home and family lives.
The union called on the Ministry of Defence to intervene to prevent Serco Marine from introducing the rota changes, which it said are attempt to ‘eke every last penny out of the contract’.
Unite regional coordinating officer Terry Keefe said, “Unite’s Serco Marine members have taken the difficult decision to strike because the company’s bosses, many of whom have never worked at sea, are refusing to listen to reason.
“The workers are reluctantly taking strike action but feel as though they have no option,” he added. “Changing from a one-week to a three-week rota will dangerously increase fatigue in a demanding job where there is absolutely no room for mistakes. It will also play havoc with people’s family lives.
“The first strikes will take place between Christmas and New Year, with more planned for the beginning of January,” Terry went on to say. “The Ministry of Defence will not be happy that its contractor Serco Marine’s behaviour will cause Christmas chaos for Royal Navy vessels. Nor will the ministry be impressed that Serco is forcing through dangerous rota changes in order to eke every last penny out of the contract.
“Serco’s behaviour is about greed not need. The company should drop these changes before the strike action and the disruption it will be bring goes ahead. The Ministry of Defence should also step in and shake some sense into Serco Marine’s shoreside management.”
By Ryan Fletcher