Environment Agency staff are being asked to vote for industrial action in a ballot that a union warned could see the first strike over pay in the organisation’s 26-year history.
Unison said thousands of its members in Englan, including river inspectors, flood forecasting officers, coastal risk management officers, sewage plant attendants and staff maintaining the Thames Barrier will vote in the coming weeks on whether to strike.
The union said its members have rejected a pay offer of 2% and an additional £345. It described the pay offer as “substantially less” than the rate of inflation, which is currently at 9.9%. The union added that the pay “simply isn’t enough” and branded the offer as the “final straw” after years of rises below the cost of living.
‘The final straw’
The union warned that low wages have led to “large numbers” of staff quitting the UK’s key environmental regulator, adding that it has struggled to fill vacancies which has “put the remaining workforce under intolerable pressure”.
Members were consulted and the outcome was an 87% vote to reject the offer and in favour of pursuing industrial action. Unison said on its website the pay offer “falls way short of what Unison and other unions included in the pay claim, which we submitted in March 2022. It added: “The latest offer follows years of no wage increases, or rises significantly below the cost of living, and has proved the final straw for the Agency’s employees.”
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Environment Agency employees love their jobs but harsh Government budget cuts means it’s becoming increasingly difficult for them to do their work.
“Staff are no longer prepared to accept such poor treatment at the hands of ministers. It’s high time the Government showed it values the important work they do, and increased funding to the agency so all employees can get a decent wage rise.
“The staff work tirelessly to protect us all. They do crucial jobs protecting the environment, clearing up pollution spills, maintaining coastal defences, managing flooding risks and supporting affected communities. They deserve much better.”
The ballot will open on 10 October and close on 10 November. The GMB, Prospect and Unite unions, which also represent Environment Agency staff, are expected to announce strike ballots soon.