The government’s refusal to rule out further cuts to coastguard stations is a “grave concern”, the Public and Commercial Services union says.
In response to a recommendation from the House of Commons transport select committee to “rule out further [coastguard station] closures in the foreseeable future and confirm that the new arrangements… are intended to last for a generation”, the government states: ”[The coastguard service] will take advantage of [new ways of working, technology and continuous improvement] over the coming years and is likely to evolve and change progressively just like any other part of public service.
“No government committed to excellent public services could guarantee that there will be no further change ‘for a generation’.”
The revelation is included in a report published on Wednesday (March 13) by the committee, and is despite severe criticism from staff and MPs over plans to close half of the UK’s coastguard stations.
In a letter to transport minister Stephen Hammond, also published in the report, chair Louise Ellman writes: “We continue to receive worrying information from coastguards about staffing levels, management culture, morale and the arrangements for closing MRCCs [stations].”
The union has warned the government is failing to retain staff, with UK stations now almost 90 watchkeepers down with more expected to leave before the summer peak.
Even in stations remaining open, disillusioned staff who can not easily be replaced are leaving.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency needs to put urgent measures in place to address the staffing crisis, including honouring its promises on upgrading jobs to improve pay.
This comes a week after the union announced almost 250,000 of its members in civil and public services will be on strike on budget day, 20 March, over cuts to pay, pensions and terms and conditions. This will be the start of a three-month programme of industrial action and protests.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “After all the justified criticism the government has received, its refusal to commit to no further coastguard cuts in the coming years is of grave concern.
“Ministers are already facing a staffing crisis and now risk destabilising this emergency service even further.”
(from a press release)