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MCA faces further strike action over long-running pay dispute

THE Maritime and Coastguard Agency faces a likelihood of further strikes in the weeks ahead unless a breakthrough is reached in its long-running dispute with unions seeking a substantial pay rise, an official of the Public and Commercial Services union has warned. Coast guards and other PCS members held a total of seven days of discontinuous strike action between March and August last year in support of their wages demand. MCA managers were forced to step into operational roles to ensure round-the-clock safety coverage during a series of 24-hour and 48-hour stoppages. But the dispute has lost momentum in recent months. Rumours have circulated that some stations are about to close, and there is evident frustration at the lack of progress on the part of some activists. PCS strategy was discussed at length in a bulletin circulated to members earlier this month, in which MCA section secretary Paul Smith said: “I am sure that no one is any more frustrated than I that it is still not possible to advise you that we have made progress on the long-term campaign we are fighting for fair pay.” However, he told Lloyd’s List yesterday [monday] that while he understood that management were on the point of putting forward new proposals, subject to ministerial approval, renewed industrial action could not be ruled out. “As have said to management, we cannot go on forever just waiting for those proposals to be put on the table,” he said. “I can honestly say that if they do not come forward relatively soon with proposals that we can sit down and talk about, then we certainly will be looking to take further action that is likely to include strike action.” No deadline for the resumption of talks has been set by the union side, he added. A spokesman for the MCA pointed out that the government’s 2% public sector pay cap is still in place.
“In these recessionary times, there is even more pressure on the public purse,” he said. “We have to make the best use of resources, but the door is always open for talks with the unions.”

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