The government will plough ahead with Environment Agency jobs massacre - despite ongoing flood crisis
The government is to plough ahead with swingeing job cuts at the Environment Agency, despite the flooding crisis still hitting Britain, it was confirmed yesterday.
It was announced last week that the consultation process on what unions fear could be up to 1,700 redundancies was "paused" due to the ongoing crisis.
But unions said the agency vowed to continue with its plans when the current situation was resolved.
Union leaders urged the agency to "stand up" to the government over its funding levels as a meeting in London was held to discuss redundancies yesterday.
Union activists staged a vocal protest outside the meeting as an amended timetable for job losses were laid out.
GMB official Paul Maloney, speaking outside the talks, said: "This meeting shows that the agency is pressing on with the 1,700 redundancies as soon as the floods have receded. Management wants the meeting to discuss how the delay in consultation impacts on the timetable for job losses.
"This is a ludicrous state of affairs. Has government learned nothing from the current floods?
"At the root of the current flooding crisis are successive years of central government cuts that have trimmed maintenance budgets to unsustainable levels.
"What we need to see now is a clear commitment from government to stop the redundancy process and to take the job cuts off the table."
Environment Agency programme director Toby Willison said: "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 refocus our efforts to continue to bring Environment Agency costs in line with our budget from government for 2014/15."
He claimed that the planned redundancies would "not affect the agency's ability to respond to flooding incidents and the Environment Agency will minimise the impact on other front-line services through the changes."
But GMB national officer Justin Bowden said after the meeting: "Environment Agency managers told the unions that it was assessing the implications of the effect of the £130 million new money on all of the previously proposed 1,700 job cuts.
"When the unions pressed as to when this assessment will be completed, it said it didn't know. A further joint meeting is scheduled for next week but the issue may still be unclear then.
"The unions pressed the EA managers to say who has the final decision as to how this new money is spent. They did not answer that question. However, I formed the clear impression that it will be the Prime Minister who will make the final decisions on how this money is to be spent."