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GMB Water Workers Seek Changes

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

GMB water workers accuse water industry managers and OFWAT of complacency that fails consumers and workers.

GMB survey reveals an insecure, under-valued and demoralised workforce which believes that privatised water companies put cost-cutting and profits above providing good customer service.

A survey of 9,000 water workers, by GMB the union for water workers, reveals marked difference in views of water workers employed by the privatised companies and workers in not-for-profit company Dwr Cymru Welsh Water and the public company Scottish Water. Workers in these two companies scored significantly lower in terms of their stress levels, job insecurity and pensions’ concerns and are far less likely to see cost-cutting and lack of investment as adversely affecting customer service.

The survey showed Thames Water employees to be the most disgruntled about their treatment by their employer.

The results of the survey are published as water company executives gather with the industry regulator, Ofwat, at the Water Industry Customer Conference today ( 24th Jan) Birmingham (see results in Notes to Editor below).

Most industry employees believe their companies are cutting corners and failing to invest enough in providing good customer service. An overwhelming majority (83%) also think their management are prepared to sacrifice the employment terms and conditions of hard-pressed water workers to keep profits high for private investors, many of whom are based outside of the UK.

Gary Smith, GMB National Secretary said “The survey shows that thousands of water workers feel over-worked, under-valued and deeply insecure about the future of their jobs and pensions. The majority believe that water companies put less priority on providing a high quality customer service than they do on cost-cutting, which obstructs their efforts as a dedicated workforce that wants to deliver for consumers.

As these senior executives meet to discuss “putting the customer at the heart of the water industry”, hard-working GMB members employed in the industry have a message for them and Ofwat. This is that “their complacent attitude towards customer service and the people whose job it is to deliver it must change”.

Thousands of water workers, with countless years of service between them, think the industry has never been in worse shape than it is now. It’s clear that most water workers believe that privatisation has failed consumers. Cost-cutting is put before customer service.

Ofwat needs to listen more to the views of front-line water workers and less to those who are in the water industry to make a fast buck at the expense of consumers and employees.

The regulator has presided over a regime which has seen companies pile the pressure on water workers, leading to stress and job insecurity amongst those who are trying to deliver a good service for consumers, whilst allowing investors to leech vast profits from the supply of a natural resource which everybody relies on.”

Ends

Contact: Gary Smith, GMB National Secretary on 07710 618909; GMB Press Office 07921 289880

Notes to editors

1 GMB conducted a survey of almost 9,000 water industry employees employed by 10 water companies: Anglian Water; Dwr Cymru Welsh Water; Essex & Suffolk Water Company; Northumbrian Water; Scottish Water; Severn Trent Water; South West Water; Thames Water; United Utilities; Velioa Water.

GMB's survey found that:

  • 83% of water workers think their company puts profits before maintaining their terms and conditions of employment. This rate rose to almost 100% amongst Thames Water employees.
  • 55% of water workers believe that their company puts making profit above providing good customer service. In Thames Water this figure was 95%.
  • Only 1 in 4 (25%) of water workers feel that their future employment is secure. In Thames Water, only 5% (1 in 20) feel that their future employment is secure.
  • 3 out of 4 (75%) of water workers feel regularly stressed at work. The highest stress levels were found amongst employees of Anglian Water (88% feel regularly stressed) and Thames Water (85%).
  • Over half of respondents (57%) described the pressure of work they are under as unreasonable.
  • 6 out of 10 water workers said that they are not provided with training adequate enough to do their job and provide a good service to consumers. In Thames Water, only 1 in 4 (25%) say they receive adequate training.
  • Nearly all water workers expressed concern about the future security of their pension, with almost 6 out of 10 (58%) saying they were seriously concerned. This serious concern was highest amongst employees in companies owned by private equity investors (85% in Thames Water, for example) and significantly lower amongst employees of Dwr Cymru Welsh Water.

2 The Water Industry Customer Conference takes place at the Holiday Inn, Birmingham City Centre, on Thursday 24th January 2013. ( http://www.wwt-customer.net/

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