Environment Agency workers to strike for the first time

Image: Unison

Unison, which represents just under 3,000 workers at the regulator, confirmed its members had voted to walk out between 8am and 5pm on 18 January.

It follows a period of work to rule which launched before Christmas and involved Unison members refusing to volunteer to be on call and deal with live incidents.

During the planned strike on the 18th, workers have agreed to step in as emergency “life and limb cover” if there is a threat to life or property from extreme weather.

Unison said its members had not taken the historic decision lightly but stressed their employer’s “failure to give a decent pay rise has left them with no alternative”. A 2% pay rise offered in November was rejected.

The union said low pay has been driving away talent from the EA, leading to greater workloads for those remaining.

Unison’s head of environment Donna Rowe-Merriman said: “Dedicated staff have been left with no other option but to strike for the first time in the Agency’s history.

“The decision to strike wasn’t taken lightly as workers know their role is crucial in keeping communities and the environment safe.

“But the cost-of-living crisis has reached a point where the lowest paid are truly struggling to make ends meet. Staff often have no choice but to look for other work outside the agency. This appalling situation cannot go on.

“Communities rely on these critical workers, particularly during bouts of extreme weather and rising problems of river pollution. They should be paid accordingly.

“Unison is urging ministers and the agency to negotiate and ensure workers are given an improved pay offer. Otherwise, more staff will join the exodus.”

Last year it was reported that EA chief executive James Bevan had opposed the pay remit guidance issued by the Cabinet Office, saying the proposed rises were insufficient. Bevan has frequently cited the cuts to the EA’s funding and warned of the implications.

A spokesperson for the EA said: “As a public sector organisation the Environment Agency remains bound by the pay policy of the government of the day.

“We have plans in place to minimise disruption to our essential work to protect the environment and respond to critical incidents.”

James Wallin

This article first appeared on edie’s sister title Utility Week

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