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Marine / Port authority workers to be balloted on industrial action

Photo © Mike Pennington (cc-by-sa/2.0)

STRIKE action at Lerwick Port Authority could be on the cards over workers’ pay, terms and conditions.

The union Unite confirmed today (Tuesday) that its members at the port are taking part in an industrial action ballot.

The workers included within the ballot have already unanimously backed industrial action in a consultative ballot, although talks are continuing with Lerwick Port Authority.

Unite said strike action by the workers, who include engineers, electricians, joiners and general operatives, would “severely disrupt” activity at the harbour which will include cruise liners and oil and gas vessels, as well as general shipping.

The port authority said it was maintaining an open dialogue with the 12 members of staff in the shore operations department on their terms and conditions.

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

The union said it is demanding that the port workers be “brought into line with industry standards set by National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry Projects (NAECI) and the Scottish Joint Industry Board (SJIB)”.

The ballot on industrial action is set to close on 9 March. If the ballot is successful then the port authority could face strike action, and an overtime ban from the end of March onwards.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Lerwick Port Authority has held down wages too long and this workforce is not standing for it any longer with their union’s full support. It is time to pay them the rate for the job.

“This business is doing very well financially so there are no grounds whatsoever for undermining our members’ pay and pensions. The employer should return to the table with a more sensible and respectful offer.

“Unite will always fiercely defend the jobs, terms and conditions of our members.”

John Clark, Unite industrial officer, added: “Unite’s aim is to bring this group of workers within current national agreements which are set by industry-wide bodies.

“Talks are continuing and we hope that the discussions can prevent any dispute.

“But, if there is no breakthrough, the Lerwick Port Authority management will be left in no doubt that our members will fight to win a fair pay deal and to reverse a number of detrimental changes made to their contracts.”

It comes on the same day the port authority reported its activity statistics for 2021, with the slow recovery from the Covid pandemic continuing.

Port chief executive Captain Calum Grains said: “All agree, the department staff’s terms and conditions need to be streamlined.

“We have made what we believe is a fair and constructive proposal, including bringing their terms and conditions in line with salaried employees, as requested.

“We continue to make every effort to address the issues raised and avoid dispute through the ongoing process of meaningful negotiations.”