Western Isles MP supports Coastguard workers 'in spirit and through motions in Parliament'

Four out of five Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) members working at the MCA have voted to go on strike over pay after drumming up considerable support at a Parliamentary ‘Drop-In’ session held last week.

According to a report in the Stornoway Gazette, Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil said on the issue: “I am supporting the Coastguard workers both in spirit and through motions in Parliament.

“We all in the islands know the importance of the Coastguard, it’s just a shame all quarters of the Labour government at Westminster does not see matters the same way we do.”

According to the PCS website, 80% of members voting in the ballot voted in favour of strike action on a turnout of 69%. The unprecedented vote, which will see up to 700 members take part in a one-day strike on Thursday 6 March, is in response to pay levels that fall way behind those paid to other emergency services and the government’s policy of below inflation cost of living increases.

The PCS states that, Coastguard watch assistants, who actively participate in search planning and other duties in response to 999 calls, only earn the national minimum wage. With starting salaries of £12,097, staff have also been expected to stomach a pay cut in real terms with pay rises averaging just 2.5% for many and the most experienced staff receiving pay increases of less than 1%.

In response to the announced strike ballot result, Peter Cardy, Chief Executive of the Maritime & Coastguard Agency said: ‘I am very saddened by this result and the planned strike. I had hoped this strike could be avoided by our engagement with the Trades Unions, I have made it very clear to them that I want to keep talking about a longer term pay settlement to this dispute.

‘Safety at sea is the MCA’s key priority and by our contingency plans which are now in place I can reassure the public that an emergency response for those at risk will not be compromised by industrial action.’

A spokesman for the MCA told PBO that Coastguard rescue volunteers including coastal, cliff and mud rescue teams will not be affected and neither will the emergency towing vessels or helicopters. The RNLI will be launching as normal, coordinated by a special 24-hour Coastguard centre to be established at Highcliffe.