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MPs Back Trade Union Concerns Over Coastguard Station Cuts

As reported previously, the government continues on its track of cutting coastguard stations around the UK; putting money before lives.

Now, a committee of MPs has backed trade union concerns over the loss of local knowledge and experienced staff as the government seeks to make massive cuts to coastguard stations and jobs.

The threat to lives is real and palpable and the stance of Union’s like PCS is not about the loss of jobs, but the loss of lives.

PCS reports that the transport select committee has criticised the government's view on the importance of local knowledge as "confusing and contradictory" - with Maritime and Coastguard Agency chief executive Alan Massey even questioning its value to coastguards - reflecting "a deeper ambiguity about how the coastguard service is expected to operate in future".

PCS say they fully support the committee's call for the government to rule out any further closures in years to come, after Mr Massey commented on the small number of coastguard stations in other countries.

PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said:

"We fully support the committee's clear call for the government to rule out any further closures in years to come and we expect ministers to provide an immediate and categorical commitment. It is simply staggering that even at this stage the government has so obviously failed to explain its plans to staff, the public, coastal users or MPs."

Following severe criticism of its original proposals, the government is now pressing ahead with revised plans to shut half of the UK's coastguard stations.

Drawing on evidence provided by PCS, the MPs said "there remains a worrying lack of information" about the role of a new national maritime operations centre (MOC) planned for the south coast and how it will work alongside coastguard stations that remain open.

This, and confusion about new job roles, has damaged morale among staff and the committee said "there is a risk that talent and expertise is being lost".

The committee concluded that the loss of experienced coastguards was "one of the most significant risks to the successful implementation of the government's reform programme".

As well as saying Mr Massey's answers about the transfer of knowledge in north east Scotland following the closure of the Forth station were "complacent and lacking in detail", the committee was scathing about shipping minister Stephen Hammond's attempt to claim staff were happier with the cuts than our representatives had suggested.

The committee found "low morale and disillusionment with management were evident in all of the evidence we received from coastguards, and not just from the trades unions", adding: "The minister's remark...would have had more credibility if he had chosen to visit a coastguard station rather than simply rely on advice from MCA management."

Tragedy at sea around the coastline of the UK is now just waiting to happen. Not only are the lives of sea-farers, passengers, and the public using the coastline for trips and sailing; but also those of coastguard staff whose stretched resources will now place them in harms way.

Whilst the coastguard personnel always face danger in saving the lives of others, the government’s cuts to coastguard stations and loss of 160 personnel, makes the loss of life inevitable.

Once again the Tory-Led coalition government relagates health and safety not only of workers in this instance, but also that of the general public; in its strive to put money before lives.

Source: PCS

Read the Transport Select Committee criticism of Government stance on Coastguard Station closures here

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