Water company boss defends plans to outsource workers as vote on strike action looms
South Staffs Water says it has been consulting with staff about a proposed change to the current way it conducts network and highway repair and maintenance operations.
Bosses say the new operating model provides the “future agility the company needs to continue delivering customers.”
But the GMB union has announced it intends to elect its members at South Staffs Water to go on strike, claiming workers are “angry”.
Strike action could result in the area’s water supply being cut off during the Christmas period.
The election begins on November 23rd and runs until December 9th.
The company says it currently operates a hybrid working model that utilizes both directly employed and outsourced resource teams.
Beginning in January, it is proposing to operate a “purely outsourced model,” with 25 of its 400-plus employees moving from South Staffs Water to its field delivery partners, bosses say.
They have also pledged that employees’ pay, conditions and seniority will be protected and that there will be no layoffs in connection with the proceedings.
Andrew Lobley, Operations Director at South Staffs Water said: “After careful consideration, we believe this change creates positive future direction for both the company and our rotating colleagues.
“The new operating model provides the future agility the company needs to continue serving customers and for our colleagues moving to our field service partners who do this type of work at scale, the move offers greater opportunities for growth, development and progress.
“With the current cost of living in the UK it was important to us that any operational change did not result in job losses and this was at the forefront of our decision making.
“We are aware that the GMB union is asking our employees to vote on possible industrial action.
“Together with our delivery partners in the field, we are committed to a fair and transparent advisory process.
“It is therefore unfortunate that the GMB has decided to vote for a strike before the conclusion of the ongoing TUPE consultations.
“Our focus remains firmly on working towards a smooth transition for our employees and a continued high level of service for our customers.”
GMB union organizer Neil Williams said: “Our members are understandably angry at plans to outsource the work they do for the company.
“These are key workers providing a vital service to local homes and businesses.
“An interruption to the water supply during the Christmas period would be catastrophic.
“We urge the company to come back to these plans and to consult with GMB on further plans.”