Workers at the Environment Agency are on strike due to a dispute over their pay for the first time in the public body’s 26 year history. IEMA's Tom Pashby report.

UNISON members at the Environment Agency have today taken part in strikes for the first time due to a dispute over salary increases, which have been kept at 2 percent, while inflation remains over 10 percent.

This action comes during strikes by tens of thousands of nurses, teachers, and train drivers across the UK during the cost of living crisis and a failure by employers to keep wages in line with inflation. When wage rises are below the rate of inflation, they amount to a ‘real terms cut’ where salaries are effectively falling due to the devaluing effect of inflation.

Jackie Hamer, UNISON’s Environment Agency committee chair, said:

“It is a measure of the anger and frustration of our members that they are taking strike action over pay for the first time in the history of the Environment Agency.”

“Twelve years of this government’s austerity policies and below-inflation pay rises have eroded pay in the EA by over 20%, and that was before the current spike in inflation. Our lower-paid members are finding it very hard to manage financially and some depend heavily on working significant amounts of overtime to make ends meet.

“These are frontline workers who deliver vital services, protecting the environment and turning out regularly in force to manage the impacts of flooding. To be so badly rewarded for such important work is shameful.”

The union UNISON which represents public sector workers balloted around 2,800 staff at the Environment Agency. Members of UNISON at the agency including river inspectors, flood forecasting officers, coastal risk management officers, sewage plant attendants, and staff at the Thames Barrier.

Donna Rowe-Merriman, UNISON’s head of environment, said:

“Communities up and down the country are at huge risk without the services Environment Agency employees provide. Staff are simply fed up with being taken for granted. This neglect cannot continue.

“Experienced workers are quitting in large numbers for better wages elsewhere and roles can’t be filled.

“The employer is sympathetic to the need for improved wages. But managers are powerless to act unless the government improves funding and allows meaningful negotiations to take place.”

UNISON says it is the UK’s "largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service, and energy.”

An Environment Agency spokesperson said:

“As a public sector organisation, the Environment Agency remains bound by the pay policy of the government of the day.

"We have plans in place to minimise disruption to our essential work to protect the environment and respond to critical incidents.”


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.