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Scottish Water workers embark on four days of strike action

By David Porter

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Scottish Water staff will be on strike for four days
Scottish Water staff will be on strike for four days

UNISON members working in Scottish Water will begin four days of strike action from tomorrow (Friday) over a pay dispute.

Members were balloted last month with the overwhelming majority (78%) voting to take strike action.

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 £5000.

The pay and grading proposal has not been negotiated with unions and its implications are causing anger among staff. The union says 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.

UNISON says the four-day strike, from November 10 to 13 will have serious implications for water and sewage services – 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.

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 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.”

UNISON regional organiser Emma Phillips said: “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 chief operating officer Peter Farrer said: “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.

“A reliable water source is vital for everyone. Maintaining public health and protecting the environment are our priorities and it is the responsible course of action for us to have contingency plans ready.

“We are dismayed the unions have taken this course of action over what is an exceptional proposal for our people.

“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 per cent for all.”

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