The Herald

Environmen­t agency staff set to strike

- JULIA HORTON

HUNDREDS of staff at Scotland’s environmen­tal watchdog are set to strike within weeks, as workers prepare to receive official confirmati­on today that they will be sacked for refusing to accept a controvers­ial pay deal.

Unison is holding a series of meetings at Scottish Environmen­t Protection Agency (Sepa) offices across the country where angry workers will discuss taking industrial action in protest over the threat.

Nearly 600 staff – almost half the workforce – decided not to sign up to the new pay deal, which imposes a wage freeze on around 120 employees that could result in some losing thousands of pounds a year.

A l a n F l e m i n g , Un i s o n branch chair at Sepa, said: “Unless there is a fairly big turnaround in their [Sepa’s] thinking over the next few weeks there is definitely going to be industrial action.”

He added: “The continuing refusal by the Sepa management to listen to the staff, and negotiate a fair set of pay and grading proposals, coupled with a range of other unilateral attacks on conditions is leading to poor morale in the workforce. Unison will not allow members to be bullied and brow-beaten in this way.”

A dispute notice has also been lodged with Sepa by Unison over the dismissals.

Sepa has maintained it is legally bound to introduce the new deal to resolve issues over equal pay, and stressed it largely benefited around 50% of low-paid staff.

So far, 759 staff, or 57% of the workforce, have accepted the deal.

Yesterday Sepa sought to re-open talks with the union, but stood by its decision.

A spokesman said: “Sepa remains available to speak with Unison, including the possibilit­y of returning to Acas to seek a way forward.”

He added: “No jobs are being lost, staff do not need to re-apply for their jobs and there will be no redundanci­es.”

Last year 93% of staff issued a vote of no confidence in the board and management of Sepa over concerns the agency was trying to pressure them into the new deal.

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