Water workers consider strike

By Jeremy Grimaldi

Swindon Advertiser

THAMES Water employees are considering a ballot on strike action after discovering a further 300 Swindon jobs could be outsourced to India.

The GMB union will meet on February 17 to consider the ballot request from Thames Water members after revealing that the company told staff they either needed to sign new ‘family unfriendly’ contracts or have their jobs sent abroad.

The news comes after the Adver reported last month that 60 call centre jobs would face the axe from the company’s Kembrey Park offices.

Andy Prendergast, regional organiser for GMB, says that many of the 300 workers in question are currently taking care of elderly relatives and young children, and the new contracts would effectively put them out of a job because their roles as carers are ‘non-negotiable’.

He said: “So far the feedback has been in favour of action, we do not believe the cuts are necessary. We are sending out a clear message that we are not going to be bullied into anything.

“Effectively the current position is that these employees feel as though they are being blackmailed because if they don’t sign the contract they will be dismissed and their jobs sent to Asia.”

Thames Water, which is owned by the Australian banking group Macquarie, said it is dismayed by the position of the national GMB.

“We are dismayed by the unhelpful position the national GMB is taking.

“It demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the economic climate we are working in and disregards the Partnership Agreement we have with Unison, GMB and Unite and the fact that formal consultations are already underway.

“We are a major local employer and we want to keep our customer services within Thames Water.

“We believe we can do this without having to go overseas, by cutting our costs and increasing our flexibility.

“Any talk of industrial action is premature, given that no ballot has been undertaken among union members at Swindon. It’s obviously something we would hope to avoid through continued dialogue with the unions, however, if the worst should happen, we will be prepared and our customers should experience no disruption.”

 

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