Environment Agency unions seek meeting on ‘indefensible’ pay offer

Real terms pay cut ‘will be a source of national embarrassment’ to the nation as it attempts to battle climate change

black and white picture of rain falling

UNISON and the other trade unions representing Environment Agency staff are seeking an urgent meeting with environment secretary George Eustice, to discuss the ‘indefensible’ pay offer to their members.

In a strongly-worded letter today, the unions assert that: “It will be a source of national embarrassment that, with the UK government hosting world leaders at COP26 in Glasgow later this year, you are failing to invest in the very staff who will play a key role in delivering UK government policies to tackle climate change.”

Donna Rowe-Merriman, UNISON’s national secretary for business, community and environment, is the union’s signatory, alongside members of GMB, Prospect and Unite.

Together, they refer to the offer of a £250 or 0% consolidated increase in this year’s pay offer, due to the implementation of the UK government’s stated pay policy position for public sector workers announced earlier this year.

“With inflation at 3.9%, this amounts to a significant pay cut,” the letter says. “They are not well-paid, so it is indefensible that they should now be offered a further real terms pay cut, that is cumulatively running at over 20% since 2010.

“It is an even bigger blow when colleagues working for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency have been awarded a consolidated increase.

The unions draw attention to the fact that Environment Agency workers keep communities safe, and many deal with increasing numbers of environmental incidents throughout the year as a result of climate change ­– for example the major flooding incidents over the last 20 months and a number of storms over 2020 and 2021.

Both Mr Eustice and Prime Minister Boris Johnson “rightly praised” staff for their response to those incidents.

The letter continues: “Just like our NHS workers and those in local government, Environment Agency staff have continued working in roles protecting our environment and have put themselves in harm’s way to fight COVID-19 and to keep essential services going. They went to work, so that others could stay home.

“Environment Agency workers should be getting a fair pay rise. Not only because they deserve it, but because vital services are only resilient with a valued and fairly rewarded workforce.”

As well as requesting a meeting with the minister at the earliest opportunity, the unions seek assurances that he will make the case within government for Environment Agency staff to receive the fair pay settlement they deserve.