Strike ahoy at new carrier’s Portsmouth base

'Strike ahoy’ at new carrier’s Portsmouth base, warns Unite

15 September 2017

The Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth may not be able to leave its home port of Portsmouth, if a national pay dispute involving tug boat crew steams ahead.

Unite, the country’s largest union, warned of choppy waters ahead if Serco Marine Services, which employs the 350 tug boat crew at Greenock, Faslane, Kyle in Scotland and Devonport, as well as at Portsmouth, doesn’t increase its ‘derisory’ pay offer.

Unite said that if its members voted for strike action, the first casualty would be the £3.1bn Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Navy’s largest-ever surface warship, which would be unable to leave Portsmouth as scheduled next month.

The tug boat crew, who work for the company on the Ministry of Defence contract in the five ports, are preparing for a ballot for strike action, after overwhelmingly rejecting the imposition of a 1.8 pay rise for 2016/7 and 2.2 per cent for 2017/8.

Unite national officer Bobby Morton said: “If our members vote for strike action it will create waves industrially and one of the first effects will be the inability of the Queen Elizabeth to leave the Portsmouth naval base in October, as it needs the tugs to help navigate it to open water.

“The other four ports will be impacted in a similar fashion.

“Serco Marine Services has imposed a derisory pay award when inflation is taking off – the consumer price index (CPI) is standing at 2.9 per cent currently. 

“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.

“It is a travesty that Serco has backed the union into an industrial corner, leaving Unite with absolutely no option other than to come out fighting – choppy waters lie ahead.”

The dates for the ballot have yet to be confirmed.


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.