Scottish Water employees have backed strike action in a row over a new reward system including pay and grading structure.
Around 500 frontline staff took part in a consultative ballot, representing an 84% turnout, with more than nine in 10 (92%) voting in support of walk outs, according to Unite.
The union says an industrial action ballot will shortly take place among a range of staff, including waste water operatives, water treatment and burst repair operatives, maintenance engineers, electricians and sewage tanker drivers.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The fact that 92% of our members working for Scottish Water are prepared to take strike action should be a massive wake-up call. Scottish Water bosses have attempted to by-pass the trade unions which is unacceptable behaviour. Unite will now move towards holding a strike ballot in defence of our members’ jobs, pay and conditions.”
The union believes the water supplier is “bypassing long-standing collective bargaining processes involving recognised trade unions” and says the new reward system is also being tied to the 2023 pay offer.
The consultative ballot result comes after Scottish Water’s new chief executive Alex Plant has been criticised for reportedly earning £295,000 per annum – £25,000 more than his predecessor and £50,000 more than the pay rules set out by the Scottish Government.
Stephen Deans, Unite’s regional coordinating officer, added: “The resolve of our members to fight against the hypocrisy and double standards gripping the upper echelons of Scottish Water is rock solid.”
“Management is attempting to impose a new grading structure and pay offer, while simultaneously feathering the nest of the new chief executive in breach of the Scottish Government’s public sector pay policy.”
“It is unforgivable that the Scottish Government is deliberately ignoring this situation over executive pay. They will soon realise the essential role our members perform on a daily basis when we launch our strike ballot. Unite has absolute confidence that we will return a very strong mandate for strike action in the coming weeks.”
A Scottish Water spokesperson said: “We continue to seek negotiations with trade unions over a very fair and reasonable proposal to increase every employee’s pay by at least 8% and modernise our pay structure in a way that our colleagues are demanding.”