Environment Agency staff who are members of the Prospect union are today starting a work-to-rule campaign in protest at the imposition of a 1.3% pay deal.
They voted to take action “short of a strike” in a ballot that took place in May, following management’s implementation of the 2018 offer earlier this year. Prospect said the offer had been “decisively rejected” by staff.
The union said it was calling on members to work no more than their contracted hours; refuse to take part in informal, unpaid shadow rosters; and to refuse to undertake work-related travel – or attend engagements – outside their normal working hours until further notice.
Staff are also being encouraged to decline assignments to other organisations; not to take on the work of colleagues transferred to other organisations; and not to take on work that is outside the agency’s core responsibilities.
Last year it emerged that environment secretary Michael Gove had transferred hundreds of staff from the agency to other parts of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs empire as part of the department’s Brexit preparations.
Prospect negotiator Kevin Warden said the work-to-rule protest was being undertaken with “very heavy hearts” but members felt it was absolutely necessary.
“The government cannot continue to expect Environment Agency workers to work day and night when there are national emergencies but deny them a pay increase that at least matches the cost of living,” he said.
“Being unable to afford after-school clubs for their children or take a holiday is no way to treat our specialists and experts. The government has to listen and the Environment Agency needs to do a better job in standing up for its staff.”
Warden said the union was in dialogue with the agency over measures to deal with “life and limb emergencies”.
Members of public sector union Unison have already begun action short of a strike at the agency.
An Environment Agency spokesperson said the organisation was committed to giving staff the best deal possible within the Civil Service Pay Guidance, as set by the Cabinet Office and Treasury.
“While decisions on any industrial action remain for Prospect and their members, plans are in place to minimise any disruption caused to the Environment Agency’s essential work to protect communities and create a better place,” they said.
According to its most recent annual report, the Environment Agency had just over 9,500 staff as of March 2018.