92 per cent in consultative ballot state willingness to strike in pay and grading dispute

Unite the union has today (1 September) confirmed that around 500 frontline Scottish Water workers have indicated support for strike action in an escalating dispute over a new grading structure and pay.

A consultative ballot result indicated 92 per cent of Unite’s members supporting strike action at Scottish Water on a high turnout of 84 per cent.

Unite can further confirm that it will now imminently hold an industrial action ballot involving the key frontline workers. The membership includes waste water operatives, water treatment and burst repair operatives, maintenance engineers, electricians and sewage tanker drivers. 

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham, said: “The fact that 92 per cent of our members working for Scottish Water are prepared to take strike action should be a massive wake-up call. Scottish Water bosses have attempted to by-pass the trade unions which is unacceptable behaviour. Unite will now move towards holding a strike ballot in defence of our members’ jobs, pay and conditions.”

Unite has directly accused Scottish Water bosses of by-passing long-standing collective bargaining processes involving recognised trade unions. The new ‘reward system’ which Scottish Water bosses are trying to impose is also being tied to the 2023 pay offer. 

The consultative ballot result comes at a juncture when Alex Plant, the new Chief Executive of Scottish Water, has directly come under fire for earning a reported annual salary of £295,000. The salary is £25,000 higher than Mr Plant’s direct predecessor, and £50,000 above the Scottish Government’s public sector pay rules. The pay policy expects a 10 per cent reduction in the remuneration package over the outgoing appointment.

Stephen Deans, Unite regional coordinating officer, added: “The resolve of our members to fight against the hypocrisy and double standards gripping the upper echelons of Scottish Water is rock solid.”

 “Management is attempting to impose a new grading structure and pay offer, while simultaneously feathering the nest of the new Chief Executive in breach of the Scottish Government’s public sector pay policy.”

 “It is unforgivable that the Scottish Government is deliberately ignoring this situation over executive pay. They will soon realise the essential role our members perform on a daily basis when we launch our strike ballot. Unite has absolute confidence that we will return a very strong mandate for strike action in the coming weeks.”