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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 March 2008, 17:25 GMT
Coastguard staff join pay strike
Coastguards striking in Brixham, Devon
Coastguards in Brixham joined the nationwide walk-out
Coastguards around the South West have been taking part in a national 24-hour strike, the first to be held in the history of the service.

Stafffrom Portland in Dorset, Brixham in Devon and Falmouth in Cornwall were among those who walked out at 0700 GMT on Thursday in a dispute over pay.

About 60 staff were involved in the walkout. Managers operated radios to provide cover.

Coastguard managers say they are bound by pay constraints in terms of raises.

'Too diabolical'

The strike follows protests about what staff say is "poverty pay".

Brixham-based coastguard Nick Ratcliff said: "We've been boxed into a corner, the wages are too diabolical.

"One young man walked past us today and said he was earning 20p a hour more than me washing bottles and pots at a restaurant around the corner.

"We're trapped in a civil service pay grading and it really needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency."

We do a very responsible and professional job keeping the seaways safe
Robert Fielder

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) wants coastguards to get another 3,000 on top of their current base pay of 14,000 a year.

Comparatively, a fully-qualified controller at Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service earns almost 26,000 a year and staff who answer calls and deploy resources at Devon and Cornwall Police can earn up to 17,000, with additional shift allowances.

South Western Ambulance Service control room staff who answer calls but do not coordinate the response can earn up to 17,000 with additional payments for antisocial hours.

'Special case'

Robert Fielder from the PCS, who was on the picket line at Brixham, said: "We do a very responsible and professional job keeping the seaways safe.

"We hope that the agency will look upon us and go to the government and plead a special case.

"It would cost les than it would to make three metres of motorway to give everybody in the service a pay rise."

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said it was bound by pay constraints negotiated with the government.

It added contingency plans were be put in place to ensure public safety was not compromised by the action.



SEE ALSO
Coastguard staff back pay strike
27 Feb 08 |  England

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