Over 90 per cent support action at Northern Lighthouse Board in pay dispute as concerns over safety at sea grow

Unite the union confirmed that its members employed by the Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB) are set to take historic strike action.

Around 30 Unite members including able seamen, base assistants, cooks and technicians supported taking strike action by 90.6 per cent in a turnout of 86.5 per cent. 

The workers maintain and operate Scotland’s lighthouses, beacons and buoys at sea ensuring that vessels and ships have safe passage through Scottish waters. Strike dates will be announced in due course by Unite.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite’s members at the NLB have emphatically supported taking historic strike action. There has been a failure on the part of the UK Government to resolve this dispute. 

The NLB is in effect being forced to offer a pitiful 2 per cent, when other public sector workers have been offered significantly more. The workers deserve far better, and we will support our NLB members all the way in their fight for better jobs, pay and conditions.” 

Unite is warning that safety at sea could be compromised due to strike action. The trade union is directly blaming the UK Department of Transport for this situation by forcing the NLB to rigidly adhere to a 2 per cent pay policy. The current NLB offer is below the pay offers made to other public sector organisations and follows a pay freeze last year. It is also significantly below the current rate of inflation which stands at 13.5 per cent (RPI).

The NLB is funded from Light Dues, a tax collected from the users of the body’s Aids to Navigation. An annual process take places to agree a 5-year plan which is scrutinised and approved by both the UK Department for Transport and the Lights Advisory Committee - who represent those who pay Light Dues. 

Unite industrial officer, Alison MacLean, added: “The practical implications of Unite members taking strike action is that safety at sea will be compromised. The blame for this situation lies squarely at the door of the UK Government Department for Transport because the NLB simply doesn’t have the capacity to raise money to fund a better offer. 

The NLB is a vital public body but it faces a staff retention crisis because skilled workers facing a cost of living crisis, a real terms pay cut and better paid opportunities elsewhere will simply vote with their feet and leave the organisation.” 

The NLB maintains 208 lighthouses across Scotland and the Isle of Man. The lighthouses are situated in some of the most remote and beautiful locations in Scotland, and guided sea mariners for over two centuries.

The NLB main office is based in Edinburgh with technical operations being carried out in Oban where there are maintenance workshops and facilities for the construction of beacons and buoys. NLB technicians are also based in Inverness, Shetland and Orkney. The NLB’s has two vessels based in Oban: NLV PHAROS and NLV POLE STAR.