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Fleet auxiliary fight escalates

RMT members lobbying parliament in July 2019 over below inflation pay rises for RFA seafarers. The government is still not listening. Photo Ian Davidson/Alamy Live News.

Five hundred seafarer members of the RMT employed in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) will escalate their pay dispute with a strike on 25 June, International Seafarers Day, which acknowledges the vital contributions of seafarers worldwide.

On 19 May RMT members in the RFA struck across the service in ports and ships as far-flung as Singapore.

Further action promised

RFA members of Nautilus International have also been in struggle, taking action short of a strike since 1 June. In their ballot results announced in April, 79 per cent voted for strike action, and 85 per cent for action short of a strike. The mandate for action lasts until October and the union has promised further action after the election if an incoming government does not offer a solution.

The RFA imposed a one-year pay deal of 4.5 per cent although seafarers have had a real terms pay cut of 36 per cent since 2010. Declines in the value of pay and pensions and unequal leave ratios for four month tours have contributed to a recruitment and retention crisis, adding to the workload of existing staff.

Below average pay

An RFA-commissioned pay benchmarking exercise, measuring pay against that it the cruise, ferry, deep sea and workboat sectors, found that RFA pay was lower than the market average for the day rate for every rank the analysts compared.

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary provides logistical and operational support to the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines, providing fuel and stores through replenishment at sea, and transporting personnel.

In the words of the former First Sea Lord, speaking in support of their campaign, “Without the Royal Fleet Auxiliary being manned, the Royal Navy actually grinds to a halt.”