Strikes Scotland: Union says pay talks 'ineptly' handled by Scottish Water as four days of strikes start

​A trade union has said four days of strike action involving Scottish Water workers starting today could easily have been averted, accusing the company of “ineptly” handling negotiations.

First Minister Humza Yousaf said yesterday that talks aim at preventing industrial action had gone on into the early hours of the morning.

But the discussions have failed to prevent strikes, with union GMB Scotland launching a rolling programme of industrial action threatening to disrupt emergency repairs, testing and maintenance.

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Claire Greer, GMB Scotland organiser, claimed the strikes could easily have been averted by Scottish Water long before last-ditch talks at conciliation service Acas collapsed in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Scottish Water workers will start a four-day strike on Friday. Picture: Getty ImagesScottish Water workers will start a four-day strike on Friday. Picture: Getty Images
Scottish Water workers will start a four-day strike on Friday. Picture: Getty Images

“It is impossible to underestimate how ineptly the company has handled what should have been a straightforward negotiation,” she said.

“It has managed to infuriate a committed workforce and drive them to strike action when the dispute could have easily been resolved months ago. Scottish Water has repeatedly been given a clear choice between doing the right thing and making the situation worse and has taken the wrong decision every single time.

“Its actions over the last six months are a template for how to demoralise staff and demolish industrial relations. The priority is to resolve this dispute, but then lessons must be learned.”

Mr Yousaf told MSPs his understanding was pay negotiations linked to the dispute were ongoing.

His comments came as he was challenged during First Minister's Questions on the bonuses paid to executives at the publicly-owned utility.

Labour's Pauline McNeill raised reports that three senior staff members had received almost £1.1 million in bonuses in 2021, claiming this was "in excess of public sector pay rules".

She told the First Minister the "same executives are withholding a pay rise from their workers unless the staff accept a new pay structure".

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Mr Yousaf told her the bonuses were "in line with public sector pay rules" and helped Scottish Water "attract and retain highly experienced personnel to run a vital public service".

Regarding workers' pay, he said the Scottish Government "has a very strong track record of ensuring workers are paid fairly".

The strike action, which is set to run for 48 days over a period of three months and also involve workers from the Unite and Unison trade unions, comes amid a row over pay and grading.

Unison regional organiser Emma Phillips said: "Scottish Water truly are a rogue employer.

"Our strong ballot result shows the strength of feeling among our members, who have overwhelmingly rejected the employer's slapdash proposals.”

"Despite this, Scottish Water are insisting they are still going to implement the changes to employment contracts and pay structures."

Patricia McArthur, the union's branch secretary at Scottish Water, added: "Strike action is always a last resort, but Scottish Water managers are imposing a new pay structure with no involvement from staff, which is not acceptable."

Scottish Water has been contacted for comment.



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