01 September 2023

Scottish Water staff vote to strike amid dispute over pay and conditions

01 September 2023

Hundreds of Scottish Water staff have backed strike action amid claims the organisation attempted to force through changes to pay and conditions without agreement.

Unison consulted members on taking industrial action and found 82% are willing to do so unless proposed changes to their pay and grading are withdrawn and a better salary offer is put forward.

Unite held a consultative ballot among its members at the firm and found 92% are willing to walk out, a figure the union says means around 500 staff are prepared to strike.

Both unions are now calling on Scottish Water to engage in talks on improved terms that reflect the cost-of-living crisis and allow what Unison termed “proper transparency” in the negotiations.

It comes after the GMB union on Thursday accused Scottish Water of acting in “bad faith”, claiming the firm contacted staff directly to set out a pay offer linked to a new grading structure.

Scottish Water have made a dog's dinner of their proposals over pay. The lack of accountability and openness is deplorable

The union said Scottish Water managers sent an email to all staff detailing the new proposed structure without consultation or agreement.

GMB said 83% of its members are also in favour of taking industrial action amid the dispute.

The ballots comes amid reports that Alex Plant, the new chief executive of Scottish Water, is being paid £295,000 a year – a salary Unite claims is £25,000 higher than his predecessor and £50,000 above the Scottish Government’s public sector pay rules.

Unison Scottish Water branch secretary Patricia McArthur said: “It is not acceptable to withhold a cost-of-living pay rise when workers are living through the highest inflation in generations.

“They should not have to wait for a pay rise which is already months late. We have not said that we are against all of their new pay changes, we have asked for openness, transparency and proper negotiations.

“Scottish Water have not provided the information to allow this.”

Unison regional organiser Emma Phillips said: “Scottish Water have made a dog’s dinner of their proposals over pay. The lack of accountability and openness is deplorable.

“It’s no wonder staff have rejected these proposals outright. In any restructuring there are winners and losers, but it’s backfired because they have simply tried to bulldoze these proposals through.

“Scottish Water need to get around the table to get a decent cost-of-living pay rise into the pockets of the hard-working staff, and then we can look at their options for restructuring.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The fact that 92% of our members working for Scottish Water are prepared to take strike action should be a massive wake-up call.

“Scottish Water bosses have attempted to bypass the trade unions, which is unacceptable behaviour. Unite will now move towards holding a strike ballot in defence of our members’ jobs, pay and conditions.”

Stephen Deans, Unite regional co-ordinating officer, added: “The resolve of our members to fight against the hypocrisy and double standards gripping the upper echelons of Scottish Water is rock solid.

“Management is attempting to impose a new grading structure and pay offer, while simultaneously feathering the nest of the new chief executive in breach of the Scottish Government’s public sector pay policy.”

A Scottish Water spokesperson said: “We continue to seek negotiations with trade unions over a very fair and reasonable proposal to increase every employee’s pay by at least 8% and modernise our pay structure in a way that our colleagues are demanding.”

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