UNISON seeks urgent meeting with environment secretary

General secretary Christina McAnea calls for discussions on ‘insulting’ pay offer to staff working for the Environment Agency

Flood defence works being carried out by the Environment Agency

UNISON is seeking an urgent meeting with environment secretary Thérèse Coffey, to discuss the “insulting” pay offer to its members working in the Environment Agency (EA).

A letter from general secretary Christina McAnea describes the current offer as “poor compared to much of the public sector”. EA workers are in a worse position than some other public sector workers as pay was frozen the previous year for the majority of staff.

“The response from our members in our industrial action ballot clearly shows the level of frustration they feel and the financial strain they are under,” the letter states. “This is the first time in 26 years that EA staff have voted to take strike action over pay”.

The letter draws attention to the agency’s reliance on staff to undertake critical work during unsocial hours, including responding to extreme weather events. In addition, staff identify and deal with discharges of raw sewage into rivers and coastlines.

Environment Agency workers keep communities safe, and deal with the increasing numbers of incidents that are occurring as a result of climate change ­– including flooding and storms.

The government has previously praised staff for their response to those incidents, but this has not been reflected in a financial reward for EA staff.

Ms McAnea called on the secretary of state to organise an urgent meeting to discuss an improved pay offer that truly rewards the work of EA staff, helps tackle the cost of living crisis, and resolve the dispute.