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Nautilus International, the UK's largest maritime union, has criticised the government for committing to increasing defence spending while refusing to move on pay for Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) employees. 

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak committed to increasing defence spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2030, saying he would put the UK defence industry on a 'war footing'.

In April 2024, Nautilus announced that members at the RFA had voted overwhelmingly for industrial action, for the first time in the history of the RFA.

Nautilus International director of organising Martyn Gray said: 'The Prime Minister has set out an ambitious target for increasing UK defence spending by the end of the decade, yet Nautilus members at the RFA were forced to vote overwhelmingly for industrial action after 14 years of a real term pay cut that amounts to over 30%.

'The RFA is critical to the UK's naval capabilities and in a time of increasing global precarity, with the Prime Minister putting the defence industry on a "war footing", the UK government should prioritise dealing with the existing challenges including poor pay, low morale and a lack of recruitment and retention of skilled mariners in the RFA. 

'The fact our members at the RFA have voted for both strike action and action short for the first time in their history is a scathing indictment of the managed decline of this vital service. 

'If the Prime Minister is serious about supporting the UK’s defence capabilities, he would commit to restoring RFA pay to pre-2010 levels and avoid industrial action.

’The skilled mariners who support the defence of our nation deserve a decent pay rise now, not distant promises.'


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