Lifeguards may go on strike over pay for the first time in their 154-year history, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has warned.
Ninety per cent of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) members voting said they would take strike action in a consultative ballot if the government and the MCA cannot come to a fair negotiation on pay.
Earlier this 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.
Staff have also been expected to stomach a pay cut in real terms with pay rises averaging just 2.5% for many, and the most experienced staff receiving pay increases of less than 1%.
Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: “The government and the MCA can be in no doubt about the feeling of injustice among people who deliver a vital emergency service and save lives. It is an absolute disgrace that you have coastguard watch assistants receiving a pay rise this October merely to comply with the increase in the national minimum wage.
“Members are angry that MCA management commissioned and then ignored findings of pay comparison exercises carried out at the end of last year which have supported the union’s claim for comparability with other 999 services.”
The call for strike action comes as the TUC launched a campaign on public sector pay.