Page last updated at 11:14 GMT, Thursday, 17 April 2008 12:14 UK

River Clyde pilots go on strike

Tugs guiding a boat on the Clyde
Clydeport has pledged to minimise disruption during the strike

Workers who provide safe passage for ships on the River Clyde have started two days of strike action.

The Pilots Group, which is represented by the Unite union, is in dispute with the river authority, Clydeport, over new working conditions.

The union said it was trying to protect members from conditions which would be detrimental to health and safety.

Clydeport said it had put measures in place to minimise disruption caused by the strike.

The 48-hour stoppage by the Pilots Group got underway at 0600 BST.

Unite said its members had been forced into the action "as a result of Clydeport management's persistent harassment and intimidation" of its members.

Regional Officer Andy MacFarlane, said: "Management's actions have been shameless in threatening the pilots with disciplinary measures.

"These dedicated pilots, who are crucial to local maritime safety and economic prosperity, already operate in a high-skill, high-pressure environment where there can be no margin for error in an industry where health and safety is paramount.

"Management need to think again. Given the recent history on the Clyde we will not allow working conditions to be compromised in any way."

'Violent conduct'

The union said that no pilots would be available to accompany ships along the Clyde during the strike.

But Clydeport denied that safety would be compromised by provisional arrangements it had put in place.

A spokesman for the river authority said: "The decision to go ahead with this strike is regrettable, however we are confident that this will not affect shipping on the Clyde as arrangements have been made for pilot cover.

"Clydeport has been negotiating with the pilots since August last year in order to put in place new terms and conditions of working as requested by the pilots and Unite.

"During this time, there have been a number of serious incidents including violent conduct and failure to appear for scheduled work which have resulted in two pilots being the subject of disciplinary procedures and one being dismissed from the organisation.

"We stand by our decision to discipline these employees and are confident that this was carried out in an appropriate and professional manner."

Clydeport said it remained committed to finding a solution to the dispute and would continue negotiations with the pilots and Unite.

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