Scottish Water’s ability to respond to flooding and pollution 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 Scottish Water spokesperson 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.”
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