Workers at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency are being balloted for industrial action short of a strike in a row over pay.
The ballot of 700 members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) follows a rejection of a below inflation cost of living increase, which, the union claimed, averages just 2.5% for many staff.
The row over pay has rumbled on since the settlement date of August last year.
Members are also angry that management have ignored the findings of pay comparison exercises carried out towards the end of last year which have supported the union’s claim for comparability with other 999 services.
Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: “The basic coastguard grade is paid barely above the minimum wage at £5.37 an hour for a 42-hour week, while they monitor shipping and public safety across tens of thousands of square miles of ocean and coastline.
“You have to ask yourself is it right that people providing such an essential service are being asked to take a real terms pay cut?”