Thursday, February 18, 2010

Milford Haven Dock Strike Averted - But Perhaps Not For Long

UNITE Castigate Court Decision
Shipping News Feature

WALES – The decision by a court to ban strike action scheduled for today by pilots and launch crews at Milford Haven, Wales biggest port has brought condemnation from union representatives and caused them to warn that though talks are still ongoing to resolve issues they intend for the strike to take place next week.

Brendan Gold, Unite’s National Secretary for Docks and Waterways said: "The fundamental issue here is the High Court intervening yet again, as they did in the BA cabin crew dispute, to undermine our members’ democratic decision to take industrial action.

"It is hugely frustrating going through the correct legal procedures to call this action then to have the courts intervene to block it. The courts are now actively intervening in industrial relations’ disputes."

Unite has now issued the employers with seven days notice that the pilots will stage a 12-hour strike on the 23rd of February. There will also be an overtime ban and ‘work-to-rule’ policy.

The dispute involves around fifty members of staff and revolves around the Milford Haven Port Authority’s (MPHA) desire to change the workers pension arrangements. The company wants to move from a non-contributory scheme to a contributory one; change the scheme from a final salary to a career average one; and also raise the retirement age to 65 from 60.

However, though the decision to ban the strike has rankled with Unite, both the union and the ports management have returned to the talks table today and progress has been made with some of the issues of contention, with both parties stating that they wish to conclude the situation amicably.

Milford Haven is the sixth largest port in the UK and one of the biggest energy import areas in Europe, with nearby refineries and storage areas handling some 25% of the UK’s refined petroleum product and around 30% of the nation’s gas supply.

(pic: MHPA pilot boat. © Milford Haven Port Authority)