In the wake of flooding across the country, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis has called on the government to guarantee there will be no more cuts to the Environment Agency.
UNISON, the largest union in the Environment Agency, has run a long campaign against cuts to resources and jobs.
During the 2014 floods, the union secured a partial climb down from prime minister David Cameron over proposed cuts to the agency. But a “strategic resources allocation review” went ahead, leading to the loss of 2,000 jobs.
UNISON members dealing with the latest round of floods have reported that the huge strain the organisation is under as a result of the cuts.
During major incidents, staff come from across the whole organisation, including back office staff, to save the maximum number of homes and businesses from flooding.
They operate pumps, build flood defences, staff emergency hotlines and take on many other roles.
UNISON also has strong membership in the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, where staff have also distinguished themselves during the recent flooding.
Environment minister Liz Truss is pushing ahead with a new programme of supposed ‘efficiencies’ across her department, but has so far ignored warnings from UNISON that this could affect the agency’s ability to respond to emergencies.
Following the latest spending review settlement, there are fears that the axe could fall again on the very people working day and night to mitigate flooding.
UNISON has welcomed the comments of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who said recently on a visit to flood-hit York, that he would apply “pressure on the government to fully fund the Environment Agency, not cut its budget, [to] fully fund new flood defences where they are necessary, not just in York but in other cities as well … they do need public support, they do need public investment.
“So, cutting flood defence money, which has been cut over the past five years, is not the answer, the answer has to be to increase it.”
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Enough is enough.
“The Environment Agency has been cut to the bone in recent years and it is wrong.
“We all know that we will see more flooding in the future and yet there is still the threat of ideologically driven job cuts.
“I am proud of our members who have been working so hard to protect people’s homes and businesses. They exemplify everything that is good about public service and they should no longer be in fear for their jobs.”