Coastguards stop work over pay dispute

The picket line outside Milford Haven coastguard HQ this morning

The picket line outside Milford Haven coastguard HQ this morning

First published in Video News

Milford Haven coastguards are taking part in a 700 strong UK-wide protest today, over wages they say are unfair.

Although lifeboat, helicopter and rescue teams are still on duty, union members from 19 coastguard control centres are currently on 24 hour strike.

This meant that this morning just four people are co-ordinating the search and rescue operations for the entire Swansea and Milford Haven area.

Watch Officer Barry Skidmore said: "I don't think its particularly safe at all, people could be in real danger. If there are a few different incidents going on, they would be very pushed with four people.

"I've been a coastguard since 1991 and I've never been on strike before in my life. I like the job I do, it's rewarding. I'm not asking for a fortune, just to keep up. Petrol goes up, tax goes up; we want a little pay rise to match it."

Nigel Codd, union representative for Milford Haven said: "We are in dispute with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the government over pay. We are the fourth emergency service and our members feel that wages are too low.

"We're just looking to be the same as the other emergency services. We want to get this issue resolved as soon as possible.

"We've had no official wording from the Welsh Assembly, but we have three stations in Wales, and hopefully they will show us some support."

Coastguard watch assistant, Jim Lowe, spoke for some of the union members present: "There's a fairly militant mood; all of us here would vote for a strike again if nothing changed.

"Four of us got here at 6.45pm last night, worked a night shift, and we're still here now because we feel so strongly about this."

The MCA said it was disappointed with the decision to strike but added that contingency plans are in place.

Peter Cardy, chief executive of the MCA, said: "Safety at sea is the MCA's key priority and I can reassure the public that an emergency response for those at risk will not be compromised by industrial action."

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