A changing work environment

Safety, new working practices and the increased use of technology were high on the agenda of the water, environment and transport conference in Brighton

photograph of WET conference in session

High on the conference agenda when delegates from UNISON’s water, environment and transport service group gathered in Brighton today was the importance of retaining flexible working practices; tackling stress and mental health in the workplace; and the risk to workers in the water industry psed by staff cuts.

John Wilkinson from United Utilities spoke of a work culture where staffing levels have been cut to the bone.

“There is a race to the bottom culture which is placing the health and safety of workers at risk,”  he declared.

Other issues raised included the push toward e-learning and home working and whether these should be welcomed and the increasing role of artificial intelligence in the water industry.

“The term workforce will eventually encapsulate both human beings and intelligent machines,” said Clive Craske of the service group executive.

“We need to raise awareness of the issues and monitor their introduction to mitigate any negative effect on members.”

Measures adopted at conference included:

  • a safety review within the water industry which will analyse accident statistics, their root causes and common themes;
  • sharing good practice on flexible working and making sure branches know how to appeal when worker’s requests for flexible working are refused;
  • a continued commitment to improving mental health in the workplace.
  • a new guide to ensure e-learning is used appropriately and not just to save time and money;
  • a consultation with branches to evaluate whether WET employees are being encouraged or pushed to work from home;
  • increasing awareness of AI and monitoring its introduction to mitigate any negative effects on members.