Socialist Worker

Striking coastguard volunteers win over compensation

Issue No. 2048

A strike by volunteer coastguards across Britain over insurance payouts for those injured while on a rescue has won a new deal.

Coastguards had begun four weeks of action over the issue.

Around 17 part-time search and rescue teams out of 389 in Britain refused to respond to emergency calls for three days.

But the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) came to an agreement with coastguards and the volunteers went back on call on Saturday 21 April.

The coastguards are only paid when they are called out.

They were worried they could lose out financially if they were injured, following a case in Wales where a coastguard had not received adequate compensation five years after being injured on duty.


Many have full-time jobs but attend rescues any time of night or day when they are alerted via their pagers.

The MCA has now agreed on a process to compensate volunteer coastguards for loss of earnings if they are injured while on duty.

The agency has also agreed to go ahead with plans for a working group to discuss more long-term options.

Andy Hughes, a coastguard station officer in Clevedon, Somerset, said, “I’m relieved that no one lost their life during the time we were taking action.

“We are very conscious this is a short-term solution, but the general public can sleep easy knowing if someone does get in trouble we are ready for duties.

“We have had an awful lot of public support through this time and we thank them for that.”

A dispute over pay could see more action at the MCA. Members of the Prospect union at the MCA have voted by 87 percent to take action short of a strike.

Some 700 members of the PCS union are also balloting for industrial action short of a strike over the same issue.

Workers rejected a below inflation cost of living increase, which is just 2.5 percent for many and penalises the most experienced staff with pay increases of less than 1 percent.

The settlement date was August last year.

Members are also angry that management has ignored the findings of pay comparison exercises carried out towards the end of last year that supported the union’s claim for comparability with other 999 services.

The industrial action ballot over the MCA pay offer comes at the same time as the union is campaigning nationally across the civil service against below inflation pay, job cuts and privatisation, which also involves the MCA.

Paul Smith, PCS negotiations officer for the MCA, said, “Members are increasingly angry about the attitude of management and their unwillingness to negotiate.

“The total disregard of the pay comparison evidence with other 999 services has only fuelled members’ sense of betrayal.

“With feelings running high amongst coastguard members it is high time for management to start negotiating seriously and offer decent pay to those who deliver a vital emergency service.”

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Tue 24 Apr 2007, 19:09 BST
Issue No. 2048
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