Four trade unions have warned the Environment Agency that its salaries are so low they are damaging its ability to recruit specialists.
Prospect, Unison, GMB and Unite urged agency board members to assert their independence and ignore Treasury guidance to limit pay rises to 1-1.5%. This guidance, which was issued in June, is being challenged separately by civil service trade unions Prospect, the Public and Commercial Services Union and the FDA, who have moved to a judicial review over what they say was inadequate consultation on the plan.
The letter from Prospect, Unison, GMB and Unite to the EA said: “Salaries have fallen far below the level needed to attract, and there needs to be a substantial increase to recruit and retain effectively”.
They said the agency’s ability to operate “floats on a sea of staff goodwill” which could not be relied upon indefinitely, and half of union members worked longer hours than they are paid for.
Pay levels for staff to fill voluntary out-of-hours emergency stand-by rotas were such that the agency “struggles to fill the rotas…to make sure it is properly placed to respond,” the unions said.
Prospect negotiations officer Kevin Warden said: “This patient committed workforce has limits, and another real term pay cut this year, on top of around 15% real terms loss as a result of the pay cap, would test these.”
Responding to the letter, the Environment Agency highlighted that it was covered by the Treasury pay guidance for 2018-19 that recommends that the average pay award should be within the range of 1% to 1.5%;
“The government has published its civil service annual pay guidance setting out the financial parameters which civil service departments and non-departmental public bodies, including the Environment Agency, can determine pay awards for this financial year."