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Royal Fleet Auxiliary Mariners Consider Authorizing Strike

RFA Argus
The civilian-crewed helicopter carrier RFA Argus (Royal Navy file image)

Published Oct 11, 2023 7:22 PM by The Maritime Executive

500 mariners who crew the mission-critical vessels of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) could go on strike within a few months, according to their union. 

Beginning Wednesday, the RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) will begin balloting its RFA employee members for authorization for a strike action. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary's management has offered a one-year contract with a 4.5 percent raise, and the membership wants more. 

"Our members are extremely angry about the pitiful pay rise they were offered and frustrated at management's refusal to even contemplate a revised offer," said RMT general secretary Mick Lynch. "RFA seafarers do an incredibly important job and they deserve to be rewarded with decent pay rises that reflect the cost of living."

Some of the RFA's mariners are represented by a different union, Nautilus International. Last month, Nautilus' membership voted to reject the same 4.5 percent raise offer, and Nautilus noted "escalating concerns regarding future recruitment and retention due to continual erosion of living standards." 

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary provides logistics support for Royal Navy missions. Its crews run the service's critical fleet oilers, which keep the Royal Navy's two aircraft carriers and 17 surface combatants fueled while at sea. They also operate the service's sole dry stores auxiliary, RFA Fort Victoria; three amphibs used for Caribbean counternarcotics and relief missions; the helicopter carrier RFA Argus; and the newly-commissioned subsea surveillance ship RFA Proteus.

The RFA's union mariners have come close to a strike action before. In 2019, after management offered a 1.5 percent raise, RMT described the contract proposal as "disgraceful" and "derisory," and members voted to authorize a strike.