WORKERS at Edinburgh’s Seafield sewage works could go on strike after being told to reapply for their own jobs.
Union leaders said Veolia Water, which runs the plant for Scottish Water, seemed set to “railroad” through changes to working arrangements without negotiation, and there are fears the changes could mean a loss of vital experience among those at the plant at a time when it has been ordered to take further action to combat the notorious “Seafield stench”.
Lyn Turner, regional officer for union Unite, said he was “appalled” at the attitude of management and said strike action was a real possibility,
“If the company remains as rigid as it is, there is no alternative,” he said. “Many employees have worked at the plant for a long time and they don’t deserve to be treated in this manner.”
Mr Turner said he and the shop stewards had been called to a meeting earlier this week.
“We thought we were going in for our annual wage negotiations,” he said. “But instead we were presented with restructuring and new working arrangements which the company said would be imposed from April 1.” He said the union expected about 28 employees would have to apply for their own jobs and go through an interview process,
“The company is looking to dismiss and re-engage them on new terms and conditions.
“I made clear if the company did not back down and start negotiating properly and giving proper respect to collective bargaining, we would have no alternative but to respond with industrial action.
“We had a very heated meeting with members. It is quite clear members are not going to take this lying down.”
Mr Turner said the union was due to meet the firm again on December 11, adding: “We will put to the company again that if it wants to change the way it operates, it has to do it through collective agreement. We’re not going to accept the way they are doing this.”
Last week, council chiefs said further work was needed at Seafield after monitoring found the odour persisted despite a £20 million upgrade.
One source said the plans could mean losing staff with up to 35 years’ experience.
Veolia Water said it was consulting staff about restructuring plans, which are at “a very early stage”.
A spokeswoman said: “These changes are designed to build on what works well and also improve upon areas that need strengthened.”
The company stressed the restructuring was to improve its operation, not reduce staff.