Essential Water Company employees are underpaid

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2018 Water, Environment & Transport Conference
27 February 2018

Conference notes that water and wastewater companies have a regular (usually annual) opportunity, when pay talks are undertaken, to lift the wages of their lowest paid – but essential – employees.

Conference in particular notes that many employee groups in the Water Industry are adversely affected because their level of pay is compared to that for generically similar jobs in their region or nationally. By not taking into account factors such as:

a. the amount of industry-specific knowledge and experience needed to effectively fulfil their roles

b. their level of industry-specific responsibility for compliance in areas such as: prevention of environmental pollution or maintaining drinking water quality.

Water companies can hold down wages below what they should be.

These groups include:

i) Technical Call Centre staff

ii) Wastewater Treatment works operators, technicians and scientists

iii) Water Supply works operators, technicians and scientists

Conference also notes that: employees in these groups are increasingly expected to work shifts that extend into unsocial hours, without any additional reward for disruption to their family life and balance between work and recreational and rest time.

Conference believes that UNISON branches organising in the Water Industry should take a focussed approach to these issues, by:

A. Working to get the job descriptions, and the mechanisms used to calculate the value of these jobs, changed to take into account the factors that should increase their calculated value.

B. Ensuring that the pay, terms and conditions of undervalued groups are enhanced through negotiation and bargaining to reflect these relevant industry-specific factors.

Conference calls on the WET Service Group Executive to:

1. Through the Water Industry Sector Committee: confirm the identity of undervalued employee groups within the water industry, monitor their levels of pay, and collect related job descriptions and evaluation mechanisms. From this information, enable the production of a set of recommendations for action.

2. Publish a briefing to all Water Sector branches on the topics of job descriptions and job evaluation in the water industry.

3. Raise the issue of valuing and rewarding industry-specific knowledge, skills and responsibility with the water sector via the regular consultative meetings between WET officers and both Ofwat and CCWater – and at the open Board Meetings held by Ofwat.

4. Highlight this important issue in UNISON’s Network Magazine, the dedicated UNISON magazine for WET members, and on the WET pages of the UNISON website.