Scottish Government 'playing fast and loose' over marine protection pay

Crews aboard the boats responsible for keeping fisheries in check say the pay rise offered by the Scottish Government was 'unlawful'.

Scottish Government accused of playing ‘fast and loose’ with pay rise for fishing protection crews iStock

Crews from Scotland’s fishery protection boats say the Scottish Government is “playing fast and loose” with the law in a dispute over a pay rise.

Members of the Unite union working onboard marine protection vessels (MPV) claim the Scottish Government and Marine Scotland had “imposed a pay award against their wishes” by offering a 2% rise – well below a rate of inflation nearly six times that amount.

Crews from MPV Hirta and MPV Jura – responsible for policing Scottish fleets to prevent overfishing – are to strike on May 26 and 27 and June 3 and 4 respectively over the decision.

The Scottish Government said it acted “lawfully” during negotiations and said it was open to further dialogue with crew members including including engineers, cooks, petty officers, merchant officers, mate and deck hands.

But Unite say the offer breached collective bargaining agreements – a practice known as “unlawful inducement”.

Sandy Smart, Unite industrial officer, added: “Marine Scotland and the Scottish Government are refusing to move on this, and instead they are telling our members to concentrate on this year’s pay.

“This is completely unacceptable because it would mean that for the majority of our members they would only get around 2.3% when inflation has hit a 40-year high of 11.1%.”

MPV’s are tasked with ensuring that fishing fleets comply with the law by monitoring catch sizes.

The boats, based in Aberdeen, are split between members of two unions; Nautilius and Unite.

The Scottish Government said the pay offer was “consistent with others in the public sector” and had been accepted by Nautilius members last year.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham added: “Unless there is sensible movement by Marine Scotland and the Scottish Government then we do not rule out further action.

Our members have no choice but to go on strike to win a pay deal that helps to protect them and their families from this raging cost of living crisis.

Crews are set to protest outside the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We would encourage Unite to continue to engage with us on these issues and, in particular, to begin pay discussions for 2022-23 which provide an opportunity to address a number of their members concerns. 

“The Scottish Government has acted lawfully and in compliance with its statutory responsibilities and we remain fully committed to collective bargaining with both Unite and Nautilus.

“While it is disappointing that Unite have decided to take strike action, we fully respect their right to do what they consider to be in the best interests of their members.”

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