Three major unions are to ballot Scottish Water workers for industrial action over an apparent £3,000 loss of pay.
GMB Scotland, Unite Scotland and Unison Scotland have joined forces for the consultative ballot which opens on Thursday, and are demanding a return to proper negotiations in a pay and bonuses row.
The unions say the issue could result in workers losing up to £3,000 – with some already having lost £500 to £1,000 “through the removal of the supplement payment which averages overtime hours worked over a year”.
But Scottish Water has imposed a new system which the unions say “reduces the supplemental payment and workers will now not be paid for working any additional hours” – leading to the consultation over strikes.
GMB Scotland organiser Gary Cook described it as “shameful opportunism in the grip of a public health crisis.
He added: “This is the kind of behaviour you would expect from a rogue employer, not a statutory corporation, and our unions have been left with no choice but to ballot our members.
“Scottish Water bosses are accountable to all of us, yet this pay cut imposition completely ignores the fair work principles the Scottish Government claims to promote, so this is also a test for ministers as well.”
James O’Connell, Unite industrial officer, said: “The decisions which have been unilaterally made by management could mean some workers losing up to £3,000 a year.
“We can’t understand why Scottish Water has chosen to take this incendiary course of action without even talking to the trade unions.
“Unite is demanding that the money which has been deducted so far be reimbursed to those workers affected by Scottish Water and management enter into meaningful negotiations with us before this dispute escalates to inevitable industrial action.”
Emma Phillips, Unison regional organiser for Scottish Water, also described waste-water supervisors as “vital workers” who have been “working throughout the pandemic keeping Scotland clean and safe”.
She added: “It is not acceptable that Scottish Water are unilaterally proposing to cut pay of this workforce by up to £4,000 per year.
“Scottish Water must get round the table and listen to staff this. Unison and the other unions have no choice but to start a consultative ballot for industrial action.”
The issue affects about 90 people from 4,000 staff at the corporation.
A Scottish Water spokesman said: “It is regrettable that trade unions have taken this step as we have engaged with them over many months on these matters.
“We have invited them to further talks as soon as possible and look forward to continuing discussions in a constructive manner.
“We place a high priority on the recognition and wellbeing of our employees in delivering a vital service daily to five million people.”