Scottish Water workers vote to strike in pay dispute

A majority of the over 500 Unite members with Scottish Water have voted to strike

Scottish Water’s ability to respond to flooding and pollution related to sewage being discharged into local rivers and on to the Clyde shore could be affected after employees voted for strike action amid an escalating pay dispute.

Unite union announced its 500-strong membership had backed strike action in the dispute which involves concerns over pay and a new grading system for workers.

The industrial action could now take place in the coming weeks after the Unite members voted by 89% in favour.

The union has accused Scottish Water bosses of bypassing long-standing collective bargaining processes.

The changes include a new ‘reward system’ being tied to the 2023 pay offer.

Unite’s membership includes waste water operatives, water treatment and burst repair operatives, maintenance engineers, electricians and sewage tanker drivers.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham, said: “Scottish Water has got nobody to blame but itself for the mess it has created. It has refused to make our 500-strong membership a fair pay offer.

“Instead, the boardroom has found the time, to award its new chief executive an eye-watering pay package. Unite fully support members in the fight for better jobs, pay and conditions at Scottish Water.”

Due to the key frontline roles undertaken by Unite’s membership in sewers, water treatment centres and on pipework, the union believes strike action will directly impair Scottish Water’s ability to respond to water leakages, flooding, pollution and quality concerns.

Stephen Deans, Unite regional coordinating officer, added: “Scottish Water has refused to meaningfully engage with us on pay and over a proposed new grading structure. Unite’s membership includes key frontline workers and without them Scotland’s ability to respond to any crisis stemming from waterworks, flooding and sewers is all but non-existent.”

“Double standards have gripped the upper echelons of Scottish Water and we will not let this go unopposed. Strike action is now inevitable unless Scottish Water make a reasonable pay offer for 2023 which is separate from negotiations on a new pay and grading structure.”

A spokesperson for Scottish Water director Alex Plant said: “We have not been fully informed by Unite of the results of their recent ballot and we remain committed to the conciliation process with the assistance of ACAS. Both sides have spent considerable time today in talks and we hope that these can continue, as we seek to achieve an outcome that is of benefit to all of our employees.

“Our view is that reforming our pay and grading structure to address many issues that our employees have made clear, is not something we would expect our unions to be resisting.

“We continue to seek negotiations with trade unions over what we consider to be a very fair and reasonable proposal. If agreed with our unions, this would increase every employee’s pay by at least 8% and reform our pay and grading structure in a way that our colleagues are asking us for.”

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, it was revealed that 86 per cent of GMB Scotland members who work at the publicly-owned service, including their sewage farm at Ardoch in Dumbarton, facility backed industrial action.

Meanwhile, 89% of Unite members working for Scottish Water voted in favour of strike action.  GMB Scotland announced its ballot had revealed overwhelming support for action after company executives were accused of riding roughshod over procedures for negotiating with staff.

Claire Greer, GMB Scotland organiser, said: “The overwhelming support for industrial action and the strength of feeling among staff about the conduct of senior management is no surprise.

“The way the company has allowed this situation to arise and then deteriorate so badly has been inept and needlessly antagonistic.

“It has only created distrust and conflict and now threatens disruption that could, with a good sense and better judgment, have easily been avoided.

“The solution to this could not be clearer. The pay offer must be decoupled from the wider restructuring of grades and salaries.  We are happy to discuss both, but separately.”

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