The first pay strike by seamen working for Trinity House in more than 500 years is set to launch on Wednesday (April 3).
The seafarers, members of Unite, who have a key role in maintaining safety in British waters, are taking strike action after seven years of below inflation pay rises, or no increases at all.
Unite has 34 members working on three lighthouse tenders – Galatea and Alert based in Harwich, Essex and the Patricia whose home port is Swansea, south Wales.
Its 20 members at Harwich will walk out for 24 hours from 2pm on April 3 in a move the union described as ‘a shot across the bows’ of the management at Trinity House Lighthouse Services (Corporation of Trinity House Deptford Strond).
Talks yesterday (March 28) between Unite and the management, under the auspices of the conciliation service Acas, failed to reach agreement.
Unite’s members voted by 90 per cent for strike action – it is the first union strike since The Corporation of Trinity House was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1514 to regulate pilotage on the River Thames and provide for aged mariners.
Unite said that the lighthouse tenders assist in maintaining almost 11,000 aids to navigation – currently they are involved in a survey of lighting on North Sea oil rigs.
Unite regional officer Miles Hubbard said, “Our members are experienced seafarers on the ships which maintain buoyage and seamarks which are essential for the well-being of mariners in British waters.
“For the last seven years they have received less than inflation pay awards or no pay rise at all,” he added
“The 24 hour strike on 3 April is a first shot across the bows of the management of this august organisation of which the celebrated diarist Samuel Pepys was once Master. It follows months of negotiations that have now reached a brick wall due to management intransigence
“It will be the first strike over pay in its 505-year-old history.
“More industrial action could be on the cards if the management don’t enter into constructive talks about a decent pay rise for these sailors who are key to maritime safety. Choppy waters could lie ahead,” Hubbard went on to say.
“Three years ago, Trinity House assured Unite it was prepared to offer a six per cent uplift in order to make our members’ pay comparable to elsewhere in the maritime industry.
“However, this offer was vetoed by its sponsoring government department, the transport ministry, leading to a swell of bad feeling.
“In 2017, the employer imposed a one per cent pay increase which Unite members voted overwhelmingly to reject. Talks, including a pay increase for the year starting April 2018, have continued ever since, but eventually run aground.”