Water Industry Risk to Jobs

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2011 Water, Environment & Transport Service Group
25 February 2011

2011 marks the beginning of what may become the most serious threat since 1989 to jobs and services provided by the UK’s water industry. Whether in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland the present industry structure is likely to come under attack from both regulators and governments.

With a new White Paper from the Government expected sometime in the summer of 2011, England faces the prospect of existing companies being divested of their retail arms and possible new entrants to the market who will seek to ramp up the level of competition. As usual it will be jobs, conditions of service and pensions that will be under attack in the pursuit of ever more savings from revenue budgets.

Scottish Water, a public authority, continues to face a determined regulator intent on introducing more private sector participation in water services along with more use of contractors and outsourcing.

Northern Ireland has been forced to face up to the stark realities of years of underinvestment in their supply networks following the devastating leaks and water supply failures during the freezing weather of December 2010/January 2011. The consequences include reviews and assessments of the current position and it seems likely that some form of privatisation will be proposed. Additionally linked to this will also come a renewed attack on domestic water consumers who still pay for their water services through local council taxes. The introduction of direct water charges is bound to create more poverty and indebtedness for Northern Irish consumers.

In Wales Dwr Cymru faces serious budgetary challenges as the Wales Assembly Government seeks ever more efficiencies and cost reductions.

Finally OFWAT the regulator in England and Wales seems destined for some significant change. The Government seems likely to refocus the purpose of regulation and to simplify the process. Fears remain that CC Water, the consumers’ champion, may be forced either to rejoin a new OFWAT or to be abolished altogether.

Conference notes with great concern that all these developments taken together will place members’ jobs, pensions and careers within the water industry under a greater level of threat and uncertainty.

Conference instructs the Executive to take all possible steps to protect members’ interests particularly their job security, pensions and future career prospects. This should include providing support and advice to branches on the development of strategies and tactics designed to achieve these aims.