1500 More Job Losses
22 April 2003: Scottish Water have
announced that 900 more jobs will be cut this year followed
by a further 600 over the next two years to meet financial
targets set by the industry regulator, the Water Industry
Commissioner for Scotland. This is on top of some 1300 jobs
that have been lost over the past two years.
When these financial targets were set in 2001
UNISON estimated that at least 2000 jobs would be lost cutting
the workforce by a third (6000 to 4000). At the time we
were accused of exaggerating the job cuts and scaremongering.
With this latest announcement the workforce with be almost
halved with job losses reaching nearly 3000.
The impact of these cuts will be significant
for both staff and the public. It is impossible to cut the
workforce by half without impacting on the provision of
clean and wholesome water and the safe and environmentally
sustainable disposable of sewage. In particular the industry
has already lost many of its most experienced staff whose
knowledge and skills cannot quickly be replaced.
Just recently the Regulator criticised Scottish
Water for its handling of last year's cryptospiridium scare
in Glasgow. He was particularly scathing over Scottish Water's
ability to put only 10 vans onto the street. With these
further cuts Scottish Water will be lucky to find a handful
of staff who are able to respond to emergencies or more
importantly have the experience to prevent problems occurring.
The Regulator's financial targets are based
on economic theory, not the realities on (or in this case
under) the ground. Comparisons with England are meaningless
because that country has benefited from 25 years of additional
investment and had their debt written off at privatisation.
Over the past 13 years £50bn has been invested in
water and sewage infrastructure in England and Wales. The
equivalent figure in Scotland is £1bn. Scotland has
a crumbling system that is only now being addressed with
a £1.8bn investment programme. That programme will
result in facilities that require less staff (although not
half) - but they are not in place now.
It is inevitable that politicians will focus
on the threat of privatisation. However, none of the mainstream
parties are proposing privatisation on the English model,
although the Tories plan comes very close. As we again warned
in 2001 the industry has been partially privatised through
PPP. The Regulator recently identified £296m wasted
on PFI schemes and they have now been dropped in favour
of broader private sector involvement through PPP schemes.
The real issue for government at Scottish
and UK level to address is the role of economic regulators.
There is an increasing disconnection between the short-term
financial cuts proposed by all the utility regulators and
longer-term policies proposed by the political parties.
For example, the government wants to encourage renewable
energy generation in the north of Scotland, whilst the energy
regulator Ofgem is introducing a financial regime which
will penalise generation in Scotland. Likewise in water,
the public provision of a safe and environmentally sustainable
water and sewage system has broad political support. However,
the regulator is hell bent on short-term financial cuts,
which puts this provision at risk.
UNISON's manifesto for Scotland's public services
calls for a publicly accountable water industry in Scotland
operating within a realistic financial framework.
For further details contact:
Dave Watson, Scottish Organiser (Utilities)
14 West Campbell Street
Glasgow G2 6RX.
Tel: 0845 355 0845