Tugboat crew strike in roster row

Devonport naval base faces major disruption

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Two days of strike action this week by Plymouth tugboat crews in a rostering dispute will cause serious disruption to naval traffic in the docks, Unite warned today (Tuesday April 6).

About 40 tractor tug crew members employed by Serco Marine at Devonport’s naval base will strike from 07.00 on Friday (April 9) until 06.59 on Saturday (April 10) in the long-running dispute over the imposition of a new three weeks ‘on’ and three weeks ‘off’ roster.

Unite said that there were serious health and safety risks for its members, including excessive tiredness, with the new three week system introduced in December. It also has adverse implications for their annual leave entitlement.

The strike will cause serious disruption to naval vessels, including submarines, which need the tugs to get into the docks and out again into open sea.

“This is a long-running dispute which has health and safety at its heart, the tugs to get into the docks and out again into open sea,” commented Unite national officer Bobby Morton.

“The new roster system of three weeks ‘on’ and then weeks ‘off’ has meant increased fatigue for our members who do a very responsible job.

“The new system may suit the Serco management as a way for the outsourcing giant to increase its profit margins, but it is completely unacceptable to our members.

“The previous one week ‘on’ and one week ‘off’ pattern worked well for many years and should be reinstated – and we call on the management to take this step before this week’s strike.

“The strike will cause disruption to naval vessels which need the experienced tugboat crews to guide them into the docks and back out to sea once maintenance work and re-provisioning for the ships are completed,” said Morton.

The dispute has been simmering since last year and strikes were planned for the Christmas and New Year period, but Unite suspended them as an act of goodwill for talks under the auspices of the conciliation service, Acas to take place. However, these have now reached an impasse.

By Shaun Noble

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