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Coastguards being 48 hour strike

PUBLISHED: 10:47 19 July 2008 | UPDATED: 20:55 05 July 2010

COASTGUARDS stepped up their protests over poor pay last night after they went on strike for 48 hours for the first time in their history.

From 8pm staff at the regional coastguard headquarters in Yarmouth left their posts at Havenbridge House.

COASTGUARDS stepped up their protests over poor pay last night after they went on strike for 48 hours for the first time in their history.

From 8pm staff at the regional coastguard headquarters in Yarmouth left their posts at Havenbridge House.

Although essential rescue services are not affected by the strike, basic safety advice to beach goers and boat owners will not be issued from Yarmouth.

The first ever 48 hour strike in the coastguard's 154 year history follows previous one day industrial action at Yarmouth and the 18 other rescue co-ordination centres across the country.

For the last year members of the PCS union have been trying to force the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to increase their pay by up to £3,000.

Some of the Yarmouth watch, who are responsible for organising rescues from the Humber to Southwold, are paid one penny over the minimum wage. Pay ranges from £14,000 to £20,000 for more experienced staff.

Contingency measures by the MCA mean Havenbridge House will be manned at a lesser level but only a basic emergency service will be provided across the coast and out to sea.

The long running dispute follows a Treasury report which recommended that coastguard pay should be increased. However the report has not been implemented.

Peter Wheeler, PCS secretary at Yarmouth coastguard, said: “This escalation of action is regretted but we believe that it is necessary if we are to get the MCA to the table to resolve this long standing issue.

“In 2007 about 12,000 people were assisted by a coastguard nationally. It is disgraceful that such men and women are so poorly rewarded and that the management and the government appear to hold them in low esteem.”

Because of the strike the MCA has issued a general warning for people not to go out to sea in Norfolk and Suffolk in inflatables and dinghies and for boat and ship owners to make sure all their emergency equipment is in order.

Peter Cardy, MCA chief executive, said: “We have drawn up detailed contingency plans for the weekend and although our services will be more limited than usual, distress calls will be answered.”

The PCS is still trying to negotiate with the MCA over their pay demands.

Anyone who spots people out to sea or on the coastline who may be in difficulty should contact the coastguards on 999.

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