Safety warning as lighthouse workers balloted on strike action
The beacons and buoys at sea could go out if lighthouse workers vote for strike action in a dispute over pay, a union has warned.
Unite members employed by the Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB), who maintain and operate Scotland’s lighthouses, beacons and buoys at sea, are being balloted on strike action in what the union said is a historic first.
The union said the NLB has offered 2% following a pay freeze last year, which the union branded “insulting”, describing it as a substantial real-terms pay cut over two years.
Around 30 Unite members including able seamen, base assistants, cooks and technicians will take part in the ballot which opens on Tuesday March 28 March and closes on April 24.
Unite said its members provide vital maintenance and operational support for lighthouses, beacons and buoys at sea, ensuring that vessels and ships have safe passage through Scottish waters.
The union’s industrial officer Alison Maclean said: “If there is no revised pay offer then quite literally the beacons and buoys at sea could go out or remain faulty due to any strike action our members could take.
“This would present major safety issues for vessels passing through Scottish waters.”
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The NLB main office is based in Edinburgh and technical operations are carried out in Oban, Argyll and Bute, where there are maintenance workshops and facilities for the construction of beacons and buoys.
NLB technicians are also based in Inverness, Shetland and Orkney and the NLB has two vessels based in Oban: NLV Pharos and NLV Pole Star.
The NLB maintain 208 lighthouses across Scotland and the Isle of Man.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite’s members at the NLB provide vital, and at times lifesaving work, by assisting mariners to pass safely through Scottish waters.
“In recognition of this valuable work, all they are asking for is a fair pay offer similar to other workers providing a key public service."
NLB has been asked for comment.