The Environment Agency and major flooding incidents

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2016 Water, Environment & Transport Service Group
1 March 2016
Carried as Amended

Conference commends the incredible amount of hard work carried out by Environment Agency employees, including many UNISON members, (and employees from other organisations with flood relief responsibilities) during the flooding which took place in the final days of 2015 and the beginning of 2016. As a service group we are very proud that our members were doing so much to protect people’s homes and businesses. As our General Secretary said at the time: “They exemplify everything that is good about public service.”

In 2014 and 2015 the Environment Agency was subject to massive job cuts as part of the ‘Strategic Reviews Response Programme’ which led to the loss of approximately 2,000 jobs. The job losses would have been far greater had it not been for the organising, campaigning and negotiating work of UNISON.

UNISON members dealing with the December 2015 floods reported the huge strain the organisation was under as a result of the cuts. During major incidents, employees came from across the whole organisation, including back office staff, to take on major incident roles. They monitor river levels, operate pumps, build flood defences, clean trash screens, staff emergency hotlines and take on many others. Members are reporting that there simply are not enough people available to cover all the required posts during a major flooding incident. This news will be alarming to anybody who is concerned about the ability of the Agency to adequately respond to future incidents, which climate change may make more frequent.

Conference therefore calls on the WET Executive to:

1)Carry out a detailed survey of Environment Agency members to gather robust information about the level of strain the organisation is under.

2)Use this information to campaign within Parliament, Government and the media against any further cuts to employee numbers in the Environment Agency. Where appropriate, the WET Executive should work with UNISON Labour Link on this campaign.

3)As part of the campaign, specifically make the case for more resources to be allocated to adequately maintain flood defences to protect homes and businesses.