Coastguards make waves in pay battle

COASTGUARDS in the region joined a 24-hour national strike yesterday in a bid to have their pay increased in line with other emergency services.The majority of the 30 staff members at Thames Coastguard, based at Walton-on-the-Naze, joined a walkout at 7am yesterday.

COASTGUARDS in the region joined a 24-hour national strike yesterday in a bid to have their pay increased in line with other emergency services.

The majority of the 30 staff members at Thames Coastguard, based at Walton-on-the-Naze, joined a walkout at 7am yesterday.

And at Yarmouth, a group of about 10 coastguards picketed the Havenbridge House rescue co-ordination centre.

Emergency cover for the coast was provided by Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) managers who took over operational control at Dover.

Routine services normally provided by the national coastguard services - such as the provision of weather and tidal information - were withdrawn for the duration of the strike.

Clive Welch, a watch officer for Thames Coastguard and national president of the MCA section of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), said workers wanted a wage level comparable with that of fire, police and ambulance service workers.

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“This struggle has been going on for two or three years.

“The basic pay for one of our people starting out is £12,000, whereas the basic starting pay in other emergency services is between £17,000 and £18,000.

“We have had studies done both internally and externally, and the last one showed the basic grade of a coastguard watch assistant is approximately £4,000 below what it should be. All the rest of the grades are roughly the same.

“Unfortunately, we are centrally funded from Government, whereas the other emergency services go through councils, so we are aligned with the civil service pay bands.

“We hope there will be a reaction to this. If not, the union will be meeting to see where we go next. We are hoping we will not have to have another one, but there plans if nothing happens.”

Peter Cardy, chief executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, said: “The unions obviously feel strongly about this and they are making the point by taking the first strike action in the history of the Coastguard. But I do not believe that any of the Coastguards want to jeopardise life.

“We are very much in a changing environment so far as shipping and the use of the sea is concerned and we have to work together for the future so I very much want to continue the dialogue with the trade unions about how this great agency continues to do the remarkable job it does.”

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