HC Deb 13 July 2000 vol 353 c634W
Mr. Duncan Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the current industrial dispute involving the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. [130448]

Dr. Moonie

The current industrial dispute involving Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) members of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary commenced in February this year following their rejection of the 1999 pay offer, which has subsequently been implemented by administrative action. The issue at the centre of the dispute is a demand by the RMT for additional Earned Voyage Leave. While nothing further can be done for 1999, RMT members have been guaranteed improvements to leave in addition to pay both for the current year and in years to come. It is disappointing therefore that they are continuing the action.

RFA vessels that are directly involved in front-line operations or on humanitarian relief tasks have been exempted from the individual action by the RMT. Changes are being made to other vessels' movements and deployments when necessary to minimise the effect of such action. RMT members are however now taking continuous action. This will mean that ships in port will be prevented from sailing, as happened with Sir Geraint on 11 July. In these circumstances, my Department has no alternative other than to apply appropriate sanctions.

The Ministry of Defence remains ready to talk to the RMT with a view to solving the dispute by negotiation.