Thames Water: Workers 'pay the price' as firm to cut 140 jobs while CEOs paid £1.52m

Thames Water has announced 140 redundancies while its chief executives were paid £1.52 million last year. (Photo: Getty Images)Thames Water has announced 140 redundancies while its chief executives were paid £1.52 million last year. (Photo: Getty Images)
Thames Water has announced 140 redundancies while its chief executives were paid £1.52 million last year. (Photo: Getty Images) | Getty Images
Thames Water has announced 140 redundancies while its chief executives were paid £1.52 million last year.

Thames Water plans to lay off 140 of its workers despite £1.52 million being paid to its chief executives last year. Around half went to Sarah Bentley who dramatically resigned this summer and the rest was divided between executive chairman Ian Marchant and Alastair Cochran, the former chief financial officer.

The GMB union said it had been told 140 people were at risk of redundancy, including 89 retail roles and 39 digital jobs. The union said the water firm has “danced with the devil and now workers are paying the price”.

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The union added that “Thames is on its knees” and “water workers are losing their livelihoods.” A spokesperson for the UK's largest water company told BBC News that it had an "extremely challenging year" and that it needed to make "difficult but necessary decisions". The company added that the job cuts would not affect front-line workers.

Thames Water, which is the main supplier across Berkshire and Oxfordshire, and is responsible for sewage for those areas, London and beyond, employs about 8,200 people across its business. It has come under harsh criticism for the amount of sewage it has been discharging into rivers, and also received backlash when it was announced in June contingency plans were being drawn up for the potential collapse of the water company because of its huge debt pile. 

Thames Water has announced 140 redundancies while its chief executives were paid £1.52 million last year. (Photo: Getty Images)Thames Water has announced 140 redundancies while its chief executives were paid £1.52 million last year. (Photo: Getty Images)
Thames Water has announced 140 redundancies while its chief executives were paid £1.52 million last year. (Photo: Getty Images) | Getty Images

Emergency plans were drawn up and the month after Thames Water shareholders agreed to provide a further £750m in funding to save the company. There was speculation that if the firm failed to secure fresh funds it could have been temporarily taken over by the government until a new buyer was found, in a special administration regime (SAR).

Member of The Henley Mermaids, a campaign group made up of five middle-aged women who share a passion for river swimming, Laura Reineke, said the River Evenlode is “nearing the point of no return thanks to Thames Water’s sewage” with habitats and fish “being destroyed for profit”. Mermaid and Green councillor Jo Robb said: “Every week we get reports of children being sick from paddling in the River Thames.”

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Over the past week Thames Water customers have faced having no water due to issues at the company’s Shalford treatment works. It left around 20,000 people without water on Sunday in the Godalming, Farncombe, Milford, Witley and Bramley areas. A customer affected by limited water supplies posted on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, saying that they want “proper answers and accountability” from the firm and for it to “admit” that it is “blaming what was barely a downpour on this region for an issue caused by chronic under investment and reckless dumping of waste in our rivers.”

GMB national officer Gary Carter said: "In the 40 years since privatisation, we've seen virtually no investment, systematic asset stripping and billions of public money drained from the system to fill already bulging shareholder and fat cat coffers. It's abhorrent and systematic of the failed experiment that is water privatisation." He added the union would try to minimise any compulsory redundancies.

Chief executives of water firms have earned a record £10m in salaries last year despite the industry still being under fire for pouring sewage into UK rivers and beaches. The Liberal Democrats carried out the analysis and are calling for a ban on all CEO bonuses within the water industry. The party’s environment spokesman Tim Farron MP said “this country's water industry has become a gravy train where sewage and money flows freely” adding that it is a “scandal happening on this government's watch.”

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