Fair pay for UK Hydrographic Office workers

Guest blog by Benjamin Caile, Prospect UKHO Branch Secretary · 11 January 2022

In common with workers across our public services, the UK Hydrographic Office has been subject to pay austerity for a decade. Pay has stagnated while the cost of living has risen. Not only has this resulted in financial hardship for Prospect members, but they also feel that any continuation of austerity will put at risk the UKHO’s ability to carry out its vital work.

If you are unfamiliar with what UKHO does, you may be surprised. The Hydrographic Office traces its history back to 1795 with a remit to supply nautical charts to the Royal Navy. Fast forward to 2022 and UKHO continues to supply nautical charts and navigational products to the Royal Navy as well as merchant shipping around the world. We also supply marine geospatial data (data that describes the marine environment such as depths, tides, areas, limits and marine infrastructure) to the UK, underpinning a vast variety of economic activity.

To put this into context, Government statistics from 2019 indicate that UK ports received 307.7 million tonnes of imports valued at £540 billion, with exports at 167.7 million tonnes valued at £365 billion.

This staggering volume of trade and economic activity is made possible by the safe and efficient navigation of vessels into UK waters. This is dependent on the work of marine cartographers, data assessment specialists, scientists, geospatial analysts, and a host of other highly skilled workers. These are dedicated civil servants, often with many years of experience, who care deeply about the service they provide.

Most significantly, our specialists and experts work hard to ensure the safety of life at sea and the discharge of the UK’s responsibilities as a signatory to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974. This is critical for an island nation such as the UK and one which is dependent on seaborne trade.

This activity is currently at risk. 78% of our members feel that pay austerity has impacted their morale and 87% feel that pay austerity is having a detrimental impact on the business.

“I believe that we are losing valued staff, and that staff are less willing to stay within roles, especially technical roles, to develop deep skills and experience when they are financially penalised for doing so.” Safety Specialist

“I have been working as a civil servant for many years and have never felt so undervalued as I do now.” Defence Product Specialist

Source: Prospect survey to UKHO members, December 2021.

In short, it’s time for a fair deal for workers at UKHO and across the Civil Service. Our workers deserve a fair wage for the skilled work they do and investing in our workers is the best way to safeguard the critical services they provide.

The Prospect Branch at UKHO has been working hard to campaign for fair pay for our workers. We have written to our minister, Baroness Goldie as well as our local MP, Rebecca Pow. We have also contacted the Maritime and Ports All Party Parliamentary Group. It’s early days, but we hope to raise the profile of the excellent work UKHO does and seek support for fair pay for our workers.

We are delighted to say that we have been supported in our efforts by sister trade union Nautilus and by PCS, both of whom co-signed our letter to the Minister. Nautilus have also given our cause great coverage online and via social media. It’s been great to forge these links and we hope it bears fruit for our members!

Find out more

To find out more information on our pay campaign at UKHO and to get involved, please contact me!
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