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Saturday, August 8, 1998 Published at 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK

UK Politics

Union anger over coastguard closures

70 staff are affected by the closures

Unions have demanded a meeting with the government over the planned closure of four coastguard stations.

The Public and Commercial Services Union demanded urgent talks with the Shipping Minister, Glenda Jackson, after last week's announcement of closures at the Liverpool, Tyne-Tees, Oban and Orkney stations.

The union's Joint General Secretary, Barry Reamsbottom, said: "Coastguards are angry and disappointed that ministers have ignored the pleas of ourselves and many other maritime organisations to keep these stations open."

The union said the closures would leave "huge sections" of the coastline without adequate cover.

A spokesman for the Public Services Tax and Commerce Union said at the time "health and safety is being sacrificed on the altar of accountancy".

A 50,000-name petition had been produced in protest, union members said.

Glenda Jackson: "I am not prepared to tolerate this kind of misinformation"
But Ms Jackson denied any lives would be put at risk.

She said: "I am not prepared to tolerate this kind of misinformation and scaremongering that says this strategy would in any way put any lives at sea at risk.

"I repeat this government would not have tolerated for 10 seconds any such proposal in any manner or form."

'Major rescue service'

She said the centres would be replaced by new technology and improved communications.

The closure dates of the four stations have been postponed by a few months. Centres at Oban and Pentland in Scotland will now close in autumn 2000 instead of at the end of 1999 and the Tyne Tees and Liverpool centres will close in autumn 2001 instead of the end of 2000.

[ image: Glenda Jackson: Investing in digital technology]
Glenda Jackson: Investing in digital technology
The "co-location" on one site of the two centres at Portland in Dorset and Lee-on-Solent has been postponed from the end of 2002 to autumn 2003.

The centres will "effectively be replaced by the greater capability" of new digital technology, Ms Jackson said.

The minister said that a "major investment of £5m to £10m in digital technology" would "re-equip and improve the operation of a major rescue service".

Staff offered other positions

The chief coastguard, John Asbury, said the 70 staff affected by the changes would be offered other positions and there will be no compulsory redundancies.

"It is not unexpected that staff would say they didn't want the stations to close, but I believe this strategy is the best way forward," he said.

Geoff Roberts, regional controller of the eastern region which covers Tyne Tees, said he could understand the government's decision to close the station, which will affect 19 people.

"Although I am sorry for those people who do want to be in the north-east, but now have to uproot to go elsewhere, from an operational point of view I can see great benefits in having a bigger area to deal with.

"At the moment the guys have long periods of inactivity which is a bit soul destroying. This way they will have a more interesting work role," he said.

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17 Nov 97†|†UK
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