Scottish Water has been accused of “hypocrisy” by a trade union, after some 500 frontline workers indicated their support for strike action.
Unite confirmed on Friday that a consultative ballot indicated 92% of its members support strike action at Scottish Water, on a turnout of 84%, while GMB union recorded 83% in favour from a 91% turnout.
Claire Greer, GMB Scotland organiser, said the ballot result was no surprise given the strength of feeling among staff.
It is in response to Scottish Water’s decision to issue a new pay structure, the unions said, and claimed the company is offering a below-inflation pay rise.
The unions’ next step will be to hold an industrial action ballot involving key frontline workers.
This includes waste water operatives, water treatment and burst repair operatives, maintenance engineers, electricians and sewage tanker drivers.
Unite’s regional coordinating officer, Stephen Deans, has accused Scottish Water of “hypocrisy” and “double standards” amid the escalating dispute.
He said: “The resolve of our members to fight against the hypocrisy and double standards gripping the upper echelons of Scottish Water is rock solid.
Unite has also accused Scottish Water bosses of bypassing collective bargaining processes involving trade unions, with the imposition of a new “reward system” being tied to the 2023 pay offer.
The union has also claimed that Alex Plant, the firm’s new chief executive, is on a salary of £295,000 per annum – reportedly £25,000 higher than his predecessor, and £50,000 above the Scottish Government’s public sector pay rules.
The policy expects a 10% reduction in the remuneration package over the outgoing appointment, according to Unite.
Mr Deans continued: “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.”
“It is unforgivable that the Scottish Government is deliberately ignoring this situation over executive pay. They will soon realise the essential role our members perform on a daily basis when we launch our strike ballot. Unite has absolute confidence that we will return a very strong mandate for strike action in the coming weeks.”
However, Scottish Water said Mr Plant’s salary package is in line with the public sector pay policy.
A spokesperson added: “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 asking for.
GMB’s Ms Greer said: “Management has created this dispute by riding roughshod over every accepted procedure for negotiating with staff. Management now need to sort it out.
“They have tried to divide and rule. They have tried to sideline the unions and go to the workers directly with a partial version of their plans but the workers have seen right through it.
“Instead of acting like a rogue employer and creating needless conflict and uncertainty, the company should be engaging constructively to resolve this dispute.”