Safety warning as lighthouse workers vote for 'historic' strike action

In a ballot, carried out by Unite Scotland, 90.6% of members from the Northern Lighthouse Board voted for strike action.

Safety warning as lighthouse workers at the Northern Lighthouse Board vote for ‘historic’ strike action iStock

Safety at sea could be “compromised” after lighthouse workers voted for strike action amid a dispute over pay.

In a ballot, carried out by Unite members employed by the Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB), 90.6% voted for strikes in an 85% turnout.

Around 30 members of the union, including able seamen, base assistants, cooks and technicians, launched their support behind the action.

Unite said the NLB offered a 2% rise following a pay freeze last year which the union branded “insulting”, describing it as a substantial real-terms pay cut over two years.

The union added that its members provide vital maintenance and operational support for lighthouses, beacons and buoys at sea, ensuring that vessels and ships have safe passage through Scottish waters.

They said that safety at sea “will be compromised” due to the strike action at NLB, which maintains 208 lighthouses across Scotland and the Isle of Man.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite’s members at the NLB have emphatically supported taking historic strike action. There has been a failure on the part of the UK Government to resolve this dispute.

“The NLB is in effect being forced to offer a pitiful 2%, when other public sector workers have been offered significantly more. The workers deserve far better, and we will support our NLB members all the way in their fight for better jobs, pay and conditions.”

“Unite is warning that safety at sea could be compromised due to strike action. The trade union is directly blaming the UK Department of Transport for this situation by forcing the NLB to rigidly adhere to a 2% pay policy.

“The current NLB offer is below the pay offers made to other public sector organisations and follows a pay freeze last year. It is also significantly below the current rate of inflation which stands at 13.5% (RPI).

Unite industrial officer, Alison MacLean, added: “The practical implications of Unite members taking strike action is that safety at sea will be compromised.

“The blame for this situation lies squarely at the door of the UK Government Department for Transport because the NLB simply doesn’t have the capacity to raise money to fund a better offer.

“The NLB is a vital public body but it faces a staff retention crisis because skilled workers facing a cost of living crisis, a real terms pay cut and better paid opportunities elsewhere will simply vote with their feet and leave the organisation.”

The NLB maintains 208 lighthouses across Scotland and the Isle of Man. The lighthouses are situated in some of the most remote and beautiful locations in Scotland, and guided sea mariners for over two centuries.

Strike dates will be announced in due course by Unite.