Environment Agency workers vote for industrial action over pay crisis

21 November 2022

Members of leading environmental trade union Prospect working at the Environment Agency have voted overwhelmingly for industrial action over pay. After Unison members also recently voted for industrial action, this means two unions have voted for action.

Flooded road and fields

67% voted in favour of strike action, 92% voted in favour of action short of strike – a clear majority in both cases.

The ballot easily passed the legal threshold of 50% of those eligible to vote doing so.

Prospect members were this year offered an average increase of 2% with 1% for pay anomalies (3% headline) consolidated, far below the current rate of inflation. This follows more than a decade of real terms pay cuts which have resulted in staffing issues and the enforced scaling back of the agency’s vital regulatory work. Experienced staff are increasingly looking to alternative employment options, leaving a skills and experience gap within the agency.

Real terms pay in the agency has fallen by more than 25% since austerity began in 2010, from a relatively low base compared to the rest of the civil service and its agencies. There is no Pay progression within grades, leaving dedicated workers increasingly worse off and with more work.

Prospect members in the Environment Agency work in roles such as warning and forecasting flood events, building and maintaining flood defences, regulating industry to prevent environmental harm and protecting and enhancing the environment. Everyone in England relies on the Environment Agency, whether they realise it or not.

Prospect will be consulting with members and other unions and will decide on next steps in due course.

Mike Clancy, General Secretary of Prospect union, said:

“Our members work in the Environment Agency because they are passionate about their work but there comes a point where passion is not enough for you to carry on in the face of tough times – that point has been reached.

“The Environment Agency is already struggling to fulfil its regulatory duties due to resourcing issues and experienced staff leaving. The bottom line is, if you have a higher proportion of less experienced staff then either the quantity of what you do suffers, or the quality. Eventually, it’s both which is why you see pollution incidents on the rise, fewer events being investigated, fewer prosecutions and fewer penalties handed out.

“We already know about the climate emergency, feeding into a biodiversity emergency and an environmental emergency. When your regulators have a pay and recruitment crisis at the same time we are in serious trouble.”