Unions Schedule Strike Vote for Royal Navy’s Royal Fleet Auxiliary
The UK has experienced several very high-profile labor disputes hitting everything from railways to ports and the postal service, as it like the rest of the world emerges from the pandemic and feels the impact of high inflation. However, if the powerful trade union group Nautilus and the UK’s National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) follow through on the plans, the next strike would be the most high-profile of them all, the Royal Navy’s Royal Fleet Auxiliary, the civilian supply arm of the Navy.
Nautilus International, the union representing officers at the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA), confirmed in an announcement today its intention to conduct a ballot for an industrial action. They plan to launch the ballot on December 6 seeking authorization to proceed with a strike against the RFA. The RMT, which says it represents about 500 RFA members, had in mid-October announced that it was planning to launch a strike authorization vote.
Nautilus says that alongside the RMT union, the two organizations began arbitration with the RFA using the UK’s advisory, conciliation, and arbitration service (ACAS) to resolve a pay dispute in the new contract. Because they have not reached what they call “a suitable resolution” and no improved offer has been made, Nautilus believes it has no option but to ballot for an industrial action.
“Industrial action at the RFA will cause significant disruption and severely limit the UK’s naval capacity,” predicts Nautilus head of recruitment and membership Derek Byrne. “Nautilus members have clearly indicated their frustration at the latest offer of 4.5 percent concluding it does nothing to repair the damage done since 2010. Over a decade of pay restraint leading to significant real-term pay cuts has led to systemic barriers for the RFA to retain and recruit maritime professionals. This has, in turn, led to widespread poor morale across the workforce.”
The RFA is the civilian arm of the Royal Navy. The mariners are trained by the Royal Navy and the civilian-crewed ships, which include support and supply vessels and tankers, provide vital logistic and operational support to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. According to the Royal Navy, the RFA is the largest British employer of British non-military merchant navy sailors and personnel who have all the benefits that come from being Ministry of Defence-employed civil servants.
Nautilus reports that the latest offer was a 4.5 percent pay offer that falls far below the rate of inflation. Justifying their actions, they highlight that since 2010, RFA employees have faced what the unions say is a pay cut in real terms of over 30 percent. Nautilus contends the situation had led to significant challenges in recruitment and retention and low morale across the workforce.
The union organizations are calling for “a pay increase reflective of the real terms pay cut since 2010 and the current high levels of inflation.” They contend that RFA members have consistently seen their pay fall below other services, such as the armed forces, police, fire, and ambulance.