HMS Queen Elizabeth

A national pay dispute which has caused tug boat crews to ballot for strike action may seriously affect the movement of Royal Navy vessels.

The row could prevent the movement of the vessels in and out of five UK ports.

This includes Portsmouth, the new home of the Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier, which is to be the nation’s new flagship.

Unite, the union representing the 350-strong tug boat crew, said that Greenock, Faslane, Kyle and Devonport may also be affected.

Strike action voting papers will be issued from October 6th, closing on Friday, October 20th.

The ballot follows an overwhelming rejection of the imposition of a 1.8%t pay rise for 2016/17 and 2.2% for 2017/18.

Unite national officer for the docks Bobby Morton said:

"If our members vote for strike action it will create choppy waters industrially and be highly disruptive as naval vessels need the tugs to help navigate them to open water.

"Serco Marine Services has imposed a derisory pay award when inflation is taking off – the retail price index (RPI) is standing at 3.9% currently.

"The maths doesn't add up for our members who are struggling with rising household bills. They need to be recognised for the skilled work they do in all weathers.

"The only way to settle the dispute is for the company to withdraw the unilateral imposition of the pay award and return to the negotiating table with Unite for constructive talks."