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Date: Friday 4 April

SEPA staff ballot on action over dismissal threat

Nearly 800 UNISON members working for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) will start to receive ballot papers asking them to vote to take industrial action to challenge a range of dismissals and a number of other breaches of agreements detailed by the union. The ballot papers start to go out today (Friday 4 April).

The dismissal notices (which will be followed by re-engagement on lesser conditions) are a unilateral attempt by SEPA management to impose changes to employees pay and conditions, following a failed attempt to pressure staff into signing these conditions away.

In addition UNISON says the agency has failed to agree a pay claim from 2006 and is in breach of its own agreements on job evaluation procedures.

Alan Fleming, SEPA UNISON Branch Chair said "Following the exhaustion of grievance procedures, and the refusal of management to compromise, even at ACAS, UNISON lodged a dispute over the dismissal letters; the unilateral overturning of job evaluation decisions; the failure to agree a pay rise for 2006, and a number of other failures by the management to stick to what they previously agreed.

"Unfortunately this still had no effect on management's Victorian labour relations , and we have now had to start the procedures that could lead to industrial action. Morale amongst the workforce is low and UNISON will not allow members to be bullied and brow-beaten in this way."

The SEPA pay and grading proposals - while details continued to be changed during the series of staff presentations - could lead to some staff losing thousands of pounds a year. The attempt to pressure staff into signing away their rights led to a 93% vote of no confidence in the board and management of SEPA.

Over 200 individual grievances have also been lodged. The ballot asks staff if they are prepared to take action short of strike action, working to contract and to contracted hours, action that is likely to restrict the ability of SEPA to carry out work relating to sampling, inspection and flood warning.

Marion Adamson, UNISON Regional Officer said, "This is a responsible and caring workforce, who don't want to take strike action, because they know the importance of the work they do in protecting the environment, and safeguarding public health. They have been forced into this action by a completely intransigent management. Even at this stage we would hope that SEPA will understand the concerns of their staff, honour their current agreements on pay and conditions and commit to collective bargaining without imposition."

The ballot closes on 25 April.


For further information please contact: Alan Fleming, UNISON Branch Chairperson 07809 041 906(m) Rebecca Noon, UNISON Branch Secretary 07748 945 801(m) Marion Adamson, Regional Officer 07904 326 812(m) Chris Bartter, Communications Officer 07715583729(m)