'No alternative': Second day of action as Environment Agency workers strike over pay

Environment Agency workers who help protect communities from flooding along the River Severn gathered today for another strike.

Environment Agency staff on strike
Environment Agency staff on strike

It comes as thousands of Environment Agency workers across the country again walked out in a dispute over pay.

EA workers gathered close to the river, where they were joined by people in solidarity with their cause. Strikers included those who attend river pollution incidents, manage and monitor flood risk, waste crime fires, respond to drought, environmental incidents and fly-tipping incidents.

Other roles undertaken by those on strike include staff who maintain critical flood barriers and manage flood warning systems along the River Severn in Bewdley, Ironbridge and Shrewsbury.

Unison, which represents many workers in the public sector, explained that the industrial action went ahead “in a significant escalation of their dispute over pay” and included a three-day withdrawal from incident rosters.

The trade union said that “the employer’s failure to give a decent pay rise and the failure of any minister to get round a table has left them with no alternative”.

Donna Rowe-Merriman, Unison head of environment, said: “The decision to strike wasn’t taken lightly as workers know their role is crucial in keeping communities and the environment safe.”

She added that amid the cost of living crisis “the lowest paid workers are truly struggling to make ends meet and this appalling situation cannot go on”.

“Communities rely on these critical workers, particularly during bouts of extreme weather and rising problems of river pollution," she said.

"They should be paid accordingly. Therefore, the union is urging ministers and the Environment Agency to negotiate and give workers an improved pay offer to avoid more staff joining the exodus.”

EA members were balloted for industrial action late last year, voting overwhelmingly to take industrial action. However, it has been agreed that officers will step in as emergency ‘life and limb cover’where there is a threat to life or property from incidents such as a major flood, Unison said.

Adam Shipp, a Unison workplace representative who works for the Environment Agency, said: “Even though we turn out every year to protect people from flooding, we have seen our pay reduced by over 25 per cent in real terms over the last 10 years.

During recent floods on the Severn, staff were working around the clock for weeks on end. Government cuts, the cost of living crisis and below inflation pay rises mean we have over a thousand vacancies nationally and we’re on our knees.”

With the current rate of inflation at more than 10 per cent, EA staff have been offered two per cent and an unconsolidated payment of £345.

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