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Council / Talks continuing after union postpones tug worker industrial action

Sullom Voe harbour tugs at work. Photo: John Bateson

INDUSTRIAL action from Shetland Islands Council (SIC) tug workers in a dispute over long service awards has been postponed after the Unite union received “commitments” from the local authority.

The action from Sella Ness tug workers to begin a continuous overtime ban had been due to start yesterday (17 May).

Unite regional officer John Boland said: “It was agreed late on Friday, to postpone the industrial action due to start on Monday 17 May, after certain commitments were received from Shetland Islands Council.

“Talks will continue this week.”

Around 40 towage workers were due to participate in the industrial action, which could have resulted in significant impact on oil processing and supplies at Sullom Voe harbour.

Towage workers at the port say they are being denied the SIC’s standard one month’s salary as a reward for 25 years of service.

The council previously said the towage workers’ terms and conditions are protected under TUPE and can’t be “unpicked” without harmonising all the towage workers’ terms and conditions with those of other council employees.

The towage operation became part of the council in 2006 when staff contracts with their previous employer, Shetland Towage, were transferred under TUPE.

The Unite union had warned that the industrial action could escalate to a strike if there was minimal progress in resolving the dispute.

Shetland Islands Council’s infrastructure director John Smith said: “We can confirm that positive discussions are ongoing into resolving the current dispute, and services at the port of Sullom Voe are operating normally.”

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