Up to 700 MCA staff strike over "scandalous rates of pay"

Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) staff are today staging the first ever strike in their history over what union leaders have described as “scandalously low rates of pay”.

The 24-hour walkout started at 7am this morning and involves up to 700 MCA staff, the Public and Commercial Services Union said.

The strike will affect each of the UK’s 19 rescue coordination centres, but not emergency response, according to Peter Cardy, chief executive of the MCA, who claimed that “contingency plans were in place”.

He added: “I am very saddened by this result and the planned strike. I had hoped this strike could be avoided by our engagement with the trade unions.”

The core of the dispute is below inflation cost of living increases for MCA staff, and a rate of pay that falls behind the other emergency services.

The PCS said staff are “furious” that Coastguard watch assistants, who actively participate in search planning and 999 calls, only earn the national minimum wage.

PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said: “Today’s strike is not a step our members have taken lightly. They feel let down and betrayed by a refusal to pay them the same as other emergency services.

“Coastguards provide a vital emergency service and ensure the safety of shipping in British waters.”

Photo: MCA staff on the picket line outside the Coastguard station at Langdon Battery Swingate in Dover