MPs back our concerns over coastguard cuts

11 December 2012

A committee of MPs has backed PCS's concerns over the loss of local knowledge and experienced staff as the government seeks to make massive cuts to coastguard stations and jobs.

The transport select committee said the government's view on the importance of local knowledge was "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".

The union fully supports 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.

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 and cut 160 jobs.

Drawing on the union's evidence, 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".

'Low morale and disillusionment'

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."

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."


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