Navy faces choppy waters

Navy faces ‘choppy waters’ as tug boat crew to vote on strike action in pay dispute

04 October 2017

The movement of Royal Navy vessels in and out of five UK ports could be severely disrupted, as tug boat crew ballot for strike action in a national pay dispute.

Portsmouth, the home base of the navy’s new prestige £3.1bn aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth, the navy’s largest-ever surface warship, could be affected.

Unite, the country’s largest union which represents the 350 tug boat crew employed by Serco Marine Services, said the other four ports that could affected are at Greenock, Faslane, Kyle in Scotland and Devonport.

Voting papers for strike action will start being delivered from Friday (6 October) to the tug boat crew, who work for the company on the Ministry of Defence contract in the five ports. It will close on Friday 20 October.

The ballot for strike action, follows an overwhelming  rejection of the imposition of a 1.8 per cent pay rise for 2016/7 and 2.2 per cent for 2017/8.

Unite national officer for the docks Bobby Morton said: “If our members vote for strike action it will create choppy waters industrially and be highly disruptive as naval vessels need the tugs to help navigate them to open water.

“Serco Marine Services has imposed a derisory pay award when inflation is taking off – the retail price index (RPI) is standing at 3.9 per cent currently.

“The maths doesn’t add up for our members who are struggling with rising household bills. They need to be recognised for the skilled work they do in all weathers. 

“The only way to settle the dispute is for the company to withdraw the unilateral imposition of the pay award and return to the negotiating table with Unite for constructive talks.”


Notes to editors:

The company’s website says: “Serco has been providing maritime support services to the Royal Navy for over 20 years in the 3 major dockyard ports, having taken over tug, fuelling, ammunitioning and other functions from the Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service (RMAS) in 1996. This was enhanced in 2007, when Serco became responsible for the complete range of services.”

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065. Email: 

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.