Unite the union has called on Nicola Sturgeon to rule out using the Royal Navy to break a potential strike by fishery patrol workers.
The Royal Navy Fishery Protection Squadron patrols the seas around England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but Scottish fisheries are protected by Marine Scotland.
Unite members at Marine Scotland have voted in favour of industrial action in a consultative ballot as part of a long-running fight for fair pay – raising the prospect of a strike.
Marine Scotland workers are being paid thousands of pounds less than other seafarers employed by companies under the control of the Scottish Government. A chief steward for Marine Scotland can earn up to £29,579 a year while at CalMac the same post is rewarded with £37,675.
Unite has now written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, asking her to confirm that she will not sanction Royal Navy fishery patrols in Scottish waters.
In the letter, Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: “On 13 April our members at Marine Scotland voted 100 per cent in favour of industrial action in a consultative ballot. The prospect of strike action is now a real possibility, due to the continued failure of Marine Scotland and the Scottish Government to deliver fair pay parity between our members and other seafarers employed by companies wholly-owned by Scottish Ministers.
“I am writing to ask you to confirm that, in the event of strike action by Unite members at Marine Scotland, the Scottish Government will oppose the use of the Royal Navy Fishery Protection Squadron to patrol Scottish waters.
“The Scottish Government has repeatedly underlined that fisheries and fishery protection are devolved matters under the jurisdiction of Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament. It would be wholly wrong, and hypocritical, if Ministers asked for, or supported, the extension of Royal Navy patrols to Scottish waters.
“The use of members of the armed forces, under military orders, to break legal industrial action sanctioned by ballot would also be a betrayal of the spirit of Fair Work principles, and an attack on the democratic rights of union members to withdraw their labour – something that would have no place in modern Scotland.”
In December last year the Scottish Parliament passed an amendment tabled by Scottish Labour, stating that Marine Scotland staff should receive a fair pay settlement that recognises their experience and skills.
Unite regional officer Alexander Smart said: “Despite long discussions with Marine Scotland, as well as support from MSPs like Rhoda Grant, and despite a democratic vote in the Parliament in favour of fair pay, our members at Marine Scotland are still waiting for Ministers to act.
“They are losing faith in the Scottish Government, and it looks like our only remedy is to move towards a formal ballot on industrial action.
“If there is industrial action, it is Marine Scotland and the Scottish Government who will be responsible, and it would be totally shameful to use members of the armed forces to break a strike in order to prop up unfair pay.”
Notes to editors
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Unite Scotland press officer David Eyre on 07960 451631 / email@example.com