Royal Navy vessels using the dockyard at Plymouth this weekend will be unable to refuel as barge crews take strike action over the imposition of an impossible rota system.

Naval refuelling 

The dozen barge crew workers, who are members of Unite, the UK’s leading union, and who are responsible for the refuelling of the naval ships, will strike this Friday and Saturday (7 and 8 October). The dispute is a result of the barge crews’ employer, outsourcing giant Serco, imposing an impossible roster on the workforce.

Under the new roster system, the workforce are not told whether they will be working at the weekend until Friday afternoon. This has destroyed the workers’ home/life balance and makes it impossible for them to arrange anything with their families.  Along the coast at Portsmouth naval base, Serco provides crew doing a similar job with greater advance notice of shifts.

Imposed rosters

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This imposed roster means workers are left not knowing whether they are coming or going.  It’s totally unacceptable, and we know it is unnecessary because the same employer, Serco, operates a different, fairer system just along the coast.  All our members at Plymouth want is the same ability to balance their work and home lives.

“Unite is totally committed to defending the jobs, pay and conditions of its members. Our members employed by Serco in Plymouth will receive the union’s full support.”

The workers previously took industrial action this summer between 21–23 July.

Serco failure

Unite regional officer Mark Richards said: “The strike action will cause considerable disruption to the Royal Navy in Plymouth but this dispute is entirely of Serco’s own making. Unite has made every attempt to resolve this issue through negotiation, but Serco has refused to listen and has treated our members with contempt.”


For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: [email protected]

Unite is the UK and Ireland’s leading union fighting to protect and advance jobs, pay and conditions for members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.