Coastguard staff are staging the first strike in their 158-year history today, in a dispute over pay.
The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) said up to 700 staff at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) would walk out for 24 hours from 7am.
Last year, the PCS condemned pay levels in the MCA, where coastguard watch assistants earn only the national minimum wage – despite taking on administrative and operational duties in responding to 999 calls.
The strike will affect emergency calls and operations at 19 UK search and rescue co-ordination centres, however, the MCA said it would make contingency plans to ensure public safety is not compromised.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, said today’s strike was not a step members had taken lightly.
“They feel let down and betrayed by a refusal to pay them the same as other emergency services and by below inflation pay rises which are cutting their pay in real terms. Coastguards provide a vital emergency service and ensure the safety of shipping in British waters. It is a scandal that pay rates are so low,” he said.