A row has broken out after Marine Scotland management cut £3,000 from a £5,000 supplementary payment designed to retain its seagoing staff.
Highlands and Islands (Labour) MSP Rhoda Grant recently found that workers could have been paid the full amount until October this year – but that the government agency cut the payment from May 2016.
The £5,000 retention payment was approved by a Scottish Government Reward and HR Policy panel in October 2014 for a year, following an urgent meeting about recruitment problems, and extended by a further two years in October 2015.
But in April last year, Marine Scotland management argued that more people were looking for jobs in the marine industry and that continued supplementary payment was no longer required to recruit and train staff.
A decision was made the following month to reduce the supplement to £2,000 and to withdraw it from April 1 this year.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman, on behalf of Marine Scotland, said they were committed to a “distinctive pay policy that is fair to all” and stressed that temporary and supplementary payments are reviewed on a regular basis to ensure best value for money.
But Mrs Grant says she is campaigning on behalf of seafarers, who enforce EU fishing policy and ensure that quota rules are obeyed, to help give them a fair pay.
Last month she met representatives of Marine Scotland in parliament and asked for the full retention payment to be reinstated, and wrote asking for more information.
She said: “There was a bit of smoke and mirrors going on when I talked to Marine Scotland about this payment and when decisions were made and could be made in the future.
“It appears that management could have looked elsewhere for possible savings if necessary because it had permission to keep paying this extra money until at least next year.
“It is now apparent that staff are shouldering the cuts, causing hardship for those who work long hours at sea, when management should be rewarding them and seeking to retain their skills during difficult times.”
Unite regional officer Alexander Smart also warned that cutting the payment will lead to staff leaving Marine Scotland. He has asked the Scottish Government to come up with a plan that “brings fairness to the pay of seafarers working in the public sector.”