Unite the union is warning that Scotland’s seas could be left wide open to illegal fishing, after members at Marine Scotland voted in favour of industrial action in a dispute over fair pay.
Marine Scotland operates marine protection vessels and research ships to protect the seas and fisheries around the country – leading to them being nicknamed ‘Scotland’s Navy’.
If the Marine Scotland employees strike, it could mean a temporary end to any inspections of foreign fishing boats operating in UK waters and fisheries research ships having to tie-up.
The organisation’s seafarers have been taking part in a long-running campaign for pay equality, after discovering that they are being paid thousands of pounds less than other workers. A chief steward for Marine Scotland can earn up to £29,579 a year while at CalMac the same post is rewarded with £37,675.
Both Marine Scotland and CalMac are wholly owned by Scottish Ministers.
Yesterday (Thursday) Unite announced that 100 per cent of its Marine Scotland members had voted in favour of industrial action in a consultative ballot.
Unite regional officer Alexander Smart said: “Our members at Marine Scotland do a difficult job, safeguarding our seas on behalf of all of us – and often spending long periods of time away from home. It is completely unfair that they are being paid less than other seafarers in the public sector.
“They want fair pay now. If they don’t get it, then industrial action is a real possibility. That would leave Scotland’s seas unprotected, with no checks on fishing vessels to make sure they are respecting quotas and net sizes.
“It would also mean that two science vessels would be tied-up at dock – unable to carry out research that is used by the Scottish Government, the UK Government, and the European Union. That’s vital when it comes to setting fishing quotas.
“Our members want to avoid that situation – but unless there is movement from Marine Scotland and the Scottish Government to deliver fair pay, they will take action.”
In December last year the Scottish Parliament passed an amendment put forward by Scottish Labour, stating that Marine Scotland staff should receive a fair pay settlement that recognises their experience and skills.
Labour Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant said: “I have spent time a lot of time pressing Marine Scotland in person and in writing about fair pay for seafarers. The Scottish Parliament has backed fair pay for Marine Scotland workers, but we still have had no movement. That is completely unacceptable – and I sincerely hope that Marine Scotland and the Scottish Government will find a resolution to this before seafarers have to resort to industrial action.”