Environment Agency worker Sarah Peet. Photo: Marcus Rose
Environment Agency workers who get called out in the middle of the night to protect people and property from floods are having to use food banks to survive from one pay day to another.
They have lost a fifth of their pay, in real terms, since 2009, delegates at UNISON’s water, environment and transport conference in Liverpool heard today.
That’s why they are taking industrial action across England for a decent pay rise, having voted overwhelmingly to reject a below-inflation pay offer off 1.3% in December, only to see the employer impose it
That came as a complete shock to UNISON members at the agency, which until now has respected collective bargaining arrangements.
Sarah Peet, of UNISON’s EA North West branch, explained: “My colleagues, who’ve been working tirelessly to protect people from flooding, fully expected a positive response to our pay claim.
“Imagine their despair on receiving this response. There’s an overwhelming feeling that it was like a smack in the face.”
That fulled an overwhelming vote industrial action, including withholding goodwill, working to contract and withdrawing from standby rotas.
Their action is having an impact, as managers struggle to find staff to fill rotas – though during recent flooding in Lincolnshire, workers agreed to temporarily waive the industrial action and work as normal to avoid putting lives at risk.
Conference agreed to two motions supporting the members in their fight to persuade the agency to think again. John Jones, NEC member for water, environment and transport, said: “As the largest union in the country, we can’t accept this attempt to erode collective bargaining arrangements.”