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Marine / ‘Breakdown in negotiations’ in port authority pay dispute, union says

Photo: John Coutts.

A CONTINUOUS overtime ban is set to kick in at Lerwick Port Authority next week after a “breakdown in negotiations” over pay, terms and conditions.

Around a dozen workers who are members of the Unite union will be involved in the industrial action, which is kicking off from 12.01am on 25 May.

The union said with significant hours of overtime required to ensure the “effective running of operations at the port, the overtime ban will have a ‘severe impact’ on the cruise liners and oil and gas vessels, as well as the general shipping, that use the harbour”.

Unite members are demanding that they are paid the same rate as that paid at other UK ports and are “challenging a number of detrimental changes to basic pay, overtime, standby and call-out payments, and pension contributions”.

The union said the changes will “further cut the incomes for workers who already derive 40p in every pound of their pay from overtime payments”.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham added: “Unite’s members at Lerwick Port Authority are simply demanding that they are paid the rate for the job.

“This is a multi-million pound business so it has no business paying Lerwick workers less than port workers get around the UK. Unite is challenging this all the way and our members have the full backing of their union in the fight to secure better jobs, pay and conditions.”

John Clark, Unite industrial officer, added: “The overtime ban will have a severe impact on the port’s operations because they rely on our members working extra hours to ensure no disruptions or delays.

“We warned weeks ago that unless there is progress in talks then we would re-start industrial action. The blames lies exclusively with the Port Authority who continue to pay well below the current national agreements which are set by industry-wide bodies.”

Port chief executive Captain Calum Grains said in February: “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.”

Lerwick Port Authority has been contacted for comment and is expected to respond shortly.