Tugboat strikes 'shot across management's bows'

Devonport naval base faces 96 hours of strike action by tugboat crew in rota row

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Devonport naval base faces 96 hours of disruption next week when tugboat crews strike in the continuing rostering dispute, Unite said today (May 5).

About 40 tractor tug crew members employed by Serco Marine at the naval base will strike from 7am on Saturday May 15 until 6.59am on Wednesday May 19. This follows two well-supported 24 hour strikes last month.

The long-running dispute centres on the imposition of a new three weeks ‘on’ and three weeks ‘off’ roster introduced in December, which Unite has repeatedly warned poses serious health & safety risks for its members, including excessive tiredness. It also has adverse implications for their annual leave entitlement.

Unite members are currently being balloted to extend the mandate which will ensure that they will be covered by the full 12 week period of immunity from being dismissed for taking part in lawful industrial action, which will now cover all action until early July. The ballot closes on Wednesday, May 19.

Unite national officer Bobby Morton said, “The 96 hour strike is a shot across the management’s bows that now is the time for them to sit down for constructive talks to resolve this dispute, otherwise Devonport could face serious disruption with strike action until early July.

“A wave of strikes into mid-summer could disrupt naval vessels, including submarines, from entering Devonport for maintenance and re-supply and then being guided back to open sea, as our members are essential for the smooth running of that operation,” he added.

“The new roster system of three weeks ‘on’ and then three weeks ‘off’ has meant increased fatigue for our members who do a very responsible and essential job. The previous one week ‘on’ and one week ‘off’ pattern worked well for many years and should be reinstated.”

The dispute started last year and talks under the auspices of the conciliation service, Acas reached an impasse.

By Shaun Noble

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