Members of Prospect, representing health and safety inspectors and scientists, have voted overwhelmingly in support of a one-day strike followed by a work to rule.
"Our members have been forced into this position by an unreasonable management offer which will see over 40% of our members suffer a pay cut for each of the next three years," explained Prospect negotiations officer, Richard Hardy. "Although HSE claim the offer is worth 3.7%, a large number of the most experienced staff will get only 1.5%. This is below inflation and clearly unacceptable."
The unions remain committed to reaching a negotiated settlement, however, and to this end have set up a joint meeting between management, themselves and the conciliation service ACAS. Prospect will therefore not be instigating action until after the meeting, which is likely to take place on March 15, 2004.
Hardy said: "It would not be appropriate for us to take industrial action until we have exhausted the conciliation option that we requested. Throughout this long process we have sought a negotiated settlement on the basis that our members’ pay is not cut."
HSE has cited the need to address legal vulnerabilities regarding equal pay in its pay system as the reason for its low pay offer. "If HSE’s pay system is illegal, and we believe it is, then that is not our members’ fault, and we don’t know why they should pay for the consequences," said Hardy. "It is interesting that HSE spent over £40,000 defending its pay system in court last year but has now changed its tune."