Plymouth tugboat crews are being balloted on renewing the strike mandate that could see a wave of strikes until early July in the continuing rostering dispute, Unite the union said today (Friday 30 April).

About 40 tractor tug crew members employed by Serco Marine at Devonport’s naval base will be balloted for strike action from Wednesday (5 May). It closes on Wednesday 19 May.

The re-ballot will extend the mandate which will ensure that Unite members will be covered by the full 12 week period of immunity from being dismissed for taking part in lawful industrial action, which will now cover all action until early July.

Unite members have already held two 24 hour ‘solidly supported’ strikes this month in the long-running dispute over the imposition of a new three weeks ‘on’ and three weeks ‘off’ roster.

Unite has repeatedly said that there were serious health & safety risks for its members, including excessive tiredness, with the new three week system introduced in December. It also has adverse implications for their annual leave entitlement.

Unite national officer Bobby Morton said: “The ballot is to renew the strike mandate from our members giving them legal protection from dismissal, which could mean a wave of strikes into early July.

“We have already held two solidly supported 24 hour strikes in April which caused disruption to naval vessels coming into dock and then being guided out again to open sea.

“The new roster system of three weeks ‘on’ and then weeks ‘off’ has meant increased fatigue for our members who do a very responsible and essential job. The previous one week ‘on’ and one week ‘off’ pattern worked well for many years and should be reinstated.

“The best way to settle this dispute is for the Secro bosses to sit down for constructive talks, but, so far, they have adopted the ‘head in the sand’ strategy in the hope that our members will accept the new rostering system – but this is not going to happen.”

The dispute started last year and talks under the auspices of the conciliation service, Acas reached an impasse.


Notes to editors:

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