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Council / Agreement reached over towage dispute

Sullom Voe harbour tugs at work. Photo: John Bateson

A DISPUTE between the Unite union and Shetland Islands Council over long service award payments for tug workers has ended in agreement.

Unite industrial officer John Boland said there was a “huge sigh of relief from both sides when agreement was reached”.

Towage workers were not previously entitled to a long service award, equivalent of one month’s salary, when they fulfilled 25 years of service, unlike other council workers.

Unite announced in April that towage workers voted to take industrial action after a ballot, and around 40 towage workers employed by the council were set to begin an overtime ban over a seven-week period in July and August.

However, Unite said on Friday that “intense negotiations since then have resulted in an outcome which will satisfy our members”, with the payment of the long service award and the agreement to discuss the way forward for the towage operation.

Boland said: “It has been a long road resolving this issue, and now this has been put to bed both sides can move on to more positive discussions in the future.

“I’m sure that our members are pleased with the outcome and the effort put in by their representatives.”

The council’s chief executive Maggie Sandison said: “We are obviously pleased that we have reached a positive resolution on this issue, and that the threat of industrial action by our towage workers has been lifted.

“We look forward to working closely with our staff and unions in the future.”