Members of Unite the union at Scottish Government agency Marine Scotland have voted unanimously in favour of industrial action in a long-running dispute over fair pay.
The union warned the vote could results in marine protection vessels and research ships being tied up in port, leaving Scotland’s seas “wide open to illegal fishing.”
The dispute centres on demands that Marine Scotland seafarers be put on an equal pay footing with employees of ferry company Caledonian MacBrayne, which is also wholly-owned by Scottish Ministers.
Last night Marine Scotland said it was committed to a pay policy that was “fair for all” and urged Unite to continue to “engage constructively” in discussions.
The union’s regional officer Alexander Smart said it was “completely unfair” that its members at Marine Scotland were paid less than other seafarers in the public sector.
He added: “They want fair pay now. If they don’t get it, then industrial action is a real possibility.
“That would leave Scotland’s seas unprotected, with no checks on fishing vessels to make sure they are respecting quotas and net sizes.”
In December the Scottish Parliament passed an amendment put forward by Scottish Labour, stating that Marine Scotland staff should receive a fair pay settlement that recognises their experience and skills.
A spokesman for Marine Scotland said: “We are committed to a pay policy that is fair for all. Temporary and supplementary payments are reviewed on a regular basis to ensure staff recruitment and retention, while delivering value for money for Scotland’s taxpayers.
“Annual pay discussions between the Scottish Government and the trade unions have recently started and the parties have agreed to carry out a comparison exercise against other seafarer employers terms and conditions as part of those discussions.
He added: “In addition, Marine Scotland management agreed last month to continue payment of the current pay supplement until October in order to continue to assess recruitment and retention issues in the sector and to allow the trade unions time to submit their own evidence for the longer term retention of the pay supplement payment.
“We would therefore encourage Unite to continue to engage constructively in these discussions.”