'Serious implications' as Scottish Water workers strike, union warns

Emergency repairs will not be done, water quality checks will not take place and water supply issues will not be dealt with during the strike.

Scottish Water Unison members to take four days of strike action from November 10 to 13 Aristotoo via iStock

Scottish Water workers are to undertake four days of strike action from Friday in a dispute over pay.

The strike action, from November 10 until November 13, will have “serious implications” for water and sewage services, trade union Unison said.

It means that emergency repairs will not be done, water quality checks will not take place and, if the public report problems with their water supply, sewage or drainage, they will not be dealt with while staff are on strike. 

Unison members were balloted last month with 78% voting to take strike action.

The union said that the dispute comes after Scottish Water refused to give its staff a pay rise unless they agree to a new pay and grading proposal that will see the earnings of their lowest paid staff drop by up to £5,000.   

It added that the pay and grading proposal has not been negotiated with unions and its “catastrophic implications” are causing anger among staff. 

Unison added that the proposals will cause years of wrangling over pay grades and push the lowest paid onto even lower wages and cause significant problems around equality legislation. 

Branch secretary for Unison Scottish Water branch, Patricia McArthur said: “Strike action is always a last resort, but Scottish Water managers are imposing a new pay structure with no involvement from staff, which is not acceptable. It is storing up problems for the future. 

“It seems that the Scottish Government’s Fair Work and equality commitments don’t matter in our biggest and most precious public asset. We need urgent intervention from the Scottish Government to talk with unions and get meaningful talks started.”  

The union’s regional organiser Emma Phillips added: “Scottish Water truly are a rogue employer. Our strong ballot result shows the strength of feeling among our members, who have overwhelmingly rejected the employer’s slap dash proposals. 

“Despite this, Scottish Water are insisting they are still going to implement the changes to employment contracts and pay structures. 

“Scottish Water is ripping up the Government’s fair work and equality guidance and it’s just not good enough – our members deserve better. 

“If the Scottish Government don’t intervene, then they have been warned that they are storing up problems over pay structures and future equal pay. Re-grading has to be done properly with the full involvement of staff and unions.” 

Scottish Water said it has plans in place to protect essential services for customers.

Scottish Water chief operating officer Peter Farrer said: “We regret that the unions have decided to take industrial action. Scottish Water remains committed to reaching an agreement with our unions that avoids industrial action. This has been the case throughout the negotiations over the proposal to modernise a 21-year-old pay and grading structure and provide employees with an in-year award of at least 8% for all.
“We will do all we can to ensure customers do not experience any disruption to their water supplies and that treatment of the country’s waste water continues as usual, despite the industrial action.

“We are dismayed the unions have taken this course of action over what, at 8% or more for all, is an exceptional proposal for our people and one of the best in the public sector.
Customer service general manager Kevin Roy added: “It is essential we can continue to provide customers with the high standard of service they have come to expect from Scottish Water. We have looked in detail at how our vast range of activities might be impacted by this action and have put measures in place to minimise any disruption.

“Among the work we are doing ahead of the strikes is the development of the Scottish Water website to provide customers with information on how we will be continuing to support their essential services.”

The Scottish Government have been contacted for comment.

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