Decisions on job losses in the Environment Agency – including those on the Thames - remained unclear after a meeting between unions and management.

The EA said they have yet to assess the implications of new Government money – promised to cope with flooding - before deciding on plans to axe 1,700 people.

Another meeting is planned but the EA says will not enter into negotiations until the floods have subsided.

The GMB union fears the agency will press ahead with the reduction in the number of lock keepers and flood prevention staff despite this winter’s floods.

Justin Bowden, GMB National Officer for members at EA, said “ Managers told the unions that they are assessing the implications of the effect of the £130million new money on all of the previously proposed 1,700 job cuts.

“When the unions pressed as to when this assessment will be completed they said they did not know.  A further joint meeting is scheduled for next week but the issue may still be unclear then.”

Toby Willison, Programme Director at the Agency paid tribute to staff during the wettest January since 1766 which had produced “huge challenges.”

He said. “Since Christmas, staff  have worked 24/7 to issue flood warnings, deploy defences, reduce the risks of flooding and assist emergency services and the military.  The effort they have made has been incredible.

“We are prioritising incident response above all other work. With this in mind, we are reviewing the timetable for the Environment Agency’s change programme and will not be entering a formal consultation with staff until the current flooding has subsided. 

“Once we move out of incident response mode, we will re-focus our efforts to continue to bring Environment Agency costs in line with our budget from government for 2014/15.”

The GMB has warned lives will be at risk as cuts mean longer  incident response times.

The EA's Toby Willison said:”The planned reductions in posts will not affect the Environment Agency's ability to respond to flooding incidents and [we] will minimise the impact on other front line services through the changes.”

The talks followed last week's statement from the EA that 1,700 job cuts had been put on hold. There are now suggestions that the cutbacks might only be postponed until the autumn.

More in our earlier story

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Story dated Feb 19th 2014


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