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Emergency services / Sumburgh based coastguard helicopter crew take part in national strike action

A red and white hm coastguard helicopter in flight against a clear blue sky.

SUMBURGH coastguard crew have undertaken a 24-hour strike as part of wider industrial action.

The dispute is between BALPA (British Airline Pilots’ Association) union and helicopter company Bristow, which holds the contract for coastguard search and rescue services including at Sumburgh.

It is understood that as Inverness crew were also striking at the same time, the nearest cover for Sumburgh during the action was the Stornoway base.

A spokesman for Bristow said during strike action the company holds “detailed and comprehensive mitigation plans for all of our customers, including the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, and will ensure a level of service remains available to support their emergency response to people in urgent need”.

Sumburgh crew went on strike from 1pm on Wednesday to 1pm today (Thursday).

BALPA previously said it had structured its nationwide strike schedule so there would still be “life and limb cover” during action.

A Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokesperson said: “HM Coastguard has developed contingency plans to ensure search and rescue response [SAR] across the UK continues.”

They added it would be be inappropriate to comment on the industrial dispute between Bristow and BALPA while discussions remain ongoing.

The Bristow spokesperson said: “It is in the interests of everyone – our colleagues involved in the strike and those not, the members of the public who may require help from the SAR teams, and the broader industries that rely on our services – to bring this to a mutually agreeable conclusion as soon as possible.

“Customers and members of the public impacted by the actions of BALPA and some of its members can have confidence we will continue to focus all efforts on providing safe and critical services.”

On Wednesday Bristow said it had agreed to meet with BALPA under the auspices of ACAS, with the date and time of this meeting still to be confirmed.

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It said the company’s latest pay offer was made to employees following “significant market analysis, and we believe it is one that is very good in comparison to other UK operators”.

BALPA general secretary Amy Leversidge recently said the union wanted to “find a solution to this dispute and for our experienced and talented pilots and tech crews to be properly valued for the job they do”.

She reiterated that the union wants to see a pay offer that is “fair and reasonable”.

The strike action – featuring search and rescue crews as well as oil and gas helicopter pilots – is phased over a number of weeks, starting earlier this month and ending in early June.

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