Unite the union today (15 March) confirmed that its members working at the Lerwick Port Authority have voted in support of industrial action over pay, terms and conditions. 

For a number of years, despite the prosperity and expansion of the port, skilled and semi-skilled employees have been paid considerably less than nationally agreed rates.

Around a dozen key workers voted unanimously in support of strike action and an overtime ban. The industrial action will include engineers, electricians, joiners and general operatives. Unite members will now commence a continuous overtime ban from 28 March at the main port in the Shetland Islands. 

Due to the significant hours of overtime required to ensure the effective running of operations at the port, Unite has stated that any overtime ban in itself will have a ‘severe impact’ on the cruise liners and oil and gas vessels, as well as the general shipping, which use the harbour.

Unite members are challenging a number of detrimental changes to basic pay, overtime, standby and call-out payments and pension contributions. The changes will further cut incomes for workers who already derive 40p in every pound of their pay from overtime payments.

Unite is demanding that the port workers be brought into line with industry standards set by National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry (NAECI) and the Scottish Joint Industry Board (SJIB).

According to the port authority, its turnover increased to £11.65m in 2019, up from £10.90m in 2018. Profit after-tax for 2019 also increased to £2.97m from £1.78m in the previous year. Lerwick received the 2021 Port of the Year Award and recently benefited from a £30m upgrade scheme.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: This unanimous support for industrial action should make it clear that our members at the port can no longer be taken for granted.  Lerwick Port Authority needs to pay the industry rate for the job. We know the business can well afford to pay our members what they deserve. So, management needs to return to the table with an improved offer immediately. 

 “If they don’t they will face industrial action, which will have a severe impact on the port’s operations and our members at Lerwick Port will have the full backing of the union in their fight to secure better jobs, pay and conditions.”

 Unite industrial officer John Clark added: “The resounding support for industrial action is a reflection of the anger our members feel. An overtime ban in itself will massively disrupt the operations at Lerwick Port because of the extra hours required to ensure the smooth running of operations. If there is no progress in the coming weeks, we also reserve the right to take all out strike action which will bring the port to an absolute standstill.

“We urge the Port Authority to bring this group of workers within current national agreements which are set by industry-wide bodies, or the disruption to the company and the local economy will be extensive.”


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