An essential service starting on little more than the minimum wage


The UK’s 600 Coastguard officers are discussing the possibility of full-blown strike action if their longstanding calls for increased pay are ignored. They argue that they provide a skilled and essential service for what, in some cases, is McJob pay.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which represents HM Coastguard, is drawing attention to the discrepancy between their pay and the pay scales of other emergency services, such as fire, ambulance and police controllers, saying that the basic pay lags by aroud £5-6,000 on average. The starting salary in the fire service is about £19,000.

By contrast, the basic pay for the service’s 150 watch assistants, who must undertake a year’s training, is £11,000 per annum, equivalent to £5.46 an hour. This is only marginally more than the compulsory UK national minimum hourly wage of £5.35.

The issue of pay comparability with other services has been examined in three studies by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency since 2001, says Paul Smith of the PCS. “They have shown that our members lag considerably behind but each and every time the MCA has ignored this.

“Our members don’t just take a call and pass it on to another organisation, like some of the other services, they have responsibility for controlling the whole operation,” Smith adds.

Union members are already undertaking some industrial action relating to administration tasks such as statistics reporting as well as refusing to man non-emergency information lines. If the attempts to negotiate with the MCA management fails, they are considering more serious strike action.

Members are asking the public to sign a petition in their support. If you’d like to see them being paid more than burger-flippers, you can sign here.