Page last updated at 12:43 GMT, Friday, 11 April 2008 13:43 UK

Coastguard staff strike over pay

Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Maritime and Coastguard Agency said service would be "limited"

Union members at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency have gone on strike over pay levels.

The Public and Commercial Services Union said about 700 of its members walked out at 0700 BST for 24 hours.

The union said staff were paid barely over the minimum wage and less than other emergency services.

The agency said the strike involved 400 rescue co-ordinators, not the rescuers themselves and that people at sea in distress would be helped as usual.

Coastguard staff held the first strike in their history in March, closing almost half of Britain's 19 rescue centres, according to the union.

'Last resort'

Officials said staff were "furious" that workers such as coastguard watch assistants only earned the national minimum wage, while the most experienced employees were only receiving a 1% rise this year.

In the operations room of the coastguard, watch assistants can earn between 12,500 and 14,500; watch officers between 15,000 and 17,000 approximately and watch managers, the highest grade, can earn between 19,000 and 23,000, the union said.

Union general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "Strike action is a last resort and could have been avoided if the government and the MCA hadn't continued with their refusal to meaningfully negotiate a satisfactory outcome.

"Instead they appear content to pay wages just above the minimum wage, reward long serving staff with a real terms pay cut and to preside over pay levels that lag significantly behind other emergency services."

Out at sea, ships and craft of all types and sizes will assist others in distress as usual
Maritime and Coastguard Agency

Morale was suffering as a result, he added.

With the union advising people to avoid "taking to the sea for non-essential activities", the agency also urged caution.

"This action is by those responsible for co-ordinating rescues - the rescuers themselves will continue to operate as normal. Helicopters will continue to fly, the RNLI will still send out their lifeboats and our own volunteer coastguard rescue officers are ready in their local communities," the agency said.

"Out at sea, ships and craft of all types and sizes will assist others in distress as usual.

"The MCA is taking this opportunity to remind those going to sea for leisure purposes of the important routine safety advice they should follow everyday and that contingency planning is in place to ensure public safety is protected."

Coastguard staff working to rule
08 Apr 08 |  England

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