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Potential disruption ahead as Scottish Water prepares for strike action

By Federica Stefani

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Scottish Water said its engineers were 'on their way'.
Scottish Water said its engineers were 'on their way'.

Disruption to water-related services may impact people in the Highlands in the coming weeks as trade union members at Scottish Water voted for strike action.

Strike action across Scotland is set to go ahead over a pay row between Scottish Water and members of Unison, Unite and GMB with a second day of negotiations ending without agreement earlier this week.

The latest proposal made by the company included an in-year wage rise of at least eight per cent for employees and other benefits, alongside a transformed grading structure aiming to offer clearer routes to future pay progression.

Dates for the planned protests are yet to be announced however a Scottish Water spokesperson said they are putting in place contingency plans to reduce disruption to services.

Peter Farrer, Scottish Water’s chief operating officer, said: “We are bitterly disappointed at this outcome. We put what would by any measure – especially in a public sector context – be an exceptional proposal on the table, which had been improved during the course of negotiations. We have always wanted to do the right thing for our employees. We are also surprised this proposal isn’t being taken to union members which was something we requested happen.

“We now need to plan for a period of industrial action to ensure we can maintain services for our customers and do the right thing for them too. Planning for that scenario now is the responsible course of action. We are closely examining every aspect of our service which could be impacted.

“We will do so whilst remaining 100 per cent committed to seeking agreement and a way forward which avoids industrial action. It is something we would always want to avoid. The door remains open to discussion and agreement.”

Unison Scotland announced last week that 78 per cent of their 1100 members at Scottish Water voted for strike action, claiming that Scottish Water bosses have been “withholding information” from the trade unions.

Unison regional organiser Emma Phillips said after the vote: “It seems that Scottish Government’s Fair Work and equality commitments don’t matter in our biggest and most precious public asset.”

“There is a feeling amongst members that Scottish Water bosses are behaving like Victorian Mill owners – and this overwhelming vote for strike action is a reflection of how staff feel they are being treated”

“We met with ACAS on the October 16 in an attempt to resolve matters. Unfortunately there was no positive progress made. We remain committed to resolving this dispute and have a further meeting early next week, however we are clear this is make or break”

“UNISON and the other unions want to negotiate a new pay and grading structure with Scottish Water, but this is a complex process that relies on accurate data. It is not going to be resolved quickly and these discussions need to be separated from any cost of living pay offer.

“The key workers at Scottish Water need their overdue cost of living pay rise now."

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