Environment Agency staff extend strike mandate over pay dispute

Prospect urges ministers to let agency leaders "meaningfully negotiate with unions on pay"
Photo: Stuart Aylmer/Alamy Stock Photo

Prospect members in the Environment Agency have voted to back six more months of industrial action over poor pay that the union says has caused a “recruitment and retention crisis”.

The union, which represents specialists in the public sector, urged ministers to act as members renewed their strike mandate for a further six months. EA staff, who work in areas such as river inspection, flood forecasting, coastal risk management and pollution control, have seen their wages fall by more than 20% in real terms since 2010, Prospect said.

Environment Agency staff have staged several days of industrial action since Prospect’s first ballot in November over a “derisory” offer of a 3% pay increase, while inflation stood at 11.1%.

Today’s announcement comes a few weeks after outgoing chief executive Sir James Bevan warned low pay was forcing staff to leave the agency.

“People work for us because they want to create a better place. That’s fantastic, but sometimes they want to buy a house or they want to put food on the table, and they’re being forced to choose to go elsewhere,” he told the Treasury Committee in March.

Bevan previously described last year’s pay deal as “unjust, unwise, and unfair”, warning then-environment secretary George Eustice that staff were facing “experiencing real hardship” and some were using foodbanks.

Nearly two-thirds of union members in the agency who voted in the latest ballot said they were prepared to stage further strikes, while 90% backed action short of a strike. Fifty-eight percent of eligible members voted.

Prospect deputy general secretary Garry Graham said: “It is high time that the government properly resourced the Environment Agency and let its leadership meaningfully negotiate with unions on pay.

“Staff are critical to the effective operation of government agencies and decent pay is vital to retain the skilled experts we need.

“Public concern over the pollution of our rivers and seas has never been higher. The government must resolve this industrial dispute and invest in the Environment Agency to begin to meet these concerns.” 

Prospect members in the Environment Agency will next walk out on 10 May, along with those in several other government departments.

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