Experienced engineers in the Manweb area of Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN) have voted for industrial action over pay.
The dispute centres on the fact that SP Manweb has employed external staff on significantly higher salary levels than many existing staff.
Prospect members were aggrieved that the newly-hired staff would not have network authorisation status so may not therefore be fully operational for some time.
Existing staff want their skills to be assessed in the same way as new recruits so that they have the opportunity earn the salary paid to those recruits. But the company says this would be a re-opening of a three-year pay agreement.
The company also says that the current matrix pay arrangements give members earning eg 85% of the market rate ample opportunity to reach the market rate of eg 114%.
Prospect disagrees and believes this could take up to 16 years or more in some cases – if achievable at all.
Prospect has tried to engage with the company and get it to recognise that the disparity in pay is unjustified and needs to be urgently addressed.
The members initially raised individual grievances and SPEN agreed to hear their cases at the local union-employer forum. But it said it was within its rights to hire at the rates it believes are appropriate and argued strongly against re-opening the three-year pay deal.
The matter was then referred to the company council which decided that it was not appropriate to proceed to stage two.
SPEN says all internal avenues of engagement have concluded.
Prospect negotiator Ian Perth said: “Given the company’s need to recruit at/and significantly above the market rate, there is clearly an issue with the market rate for engineers in the area.
“Our members had just agreed to a three-year pay deal including new market rates. No sooner had the deal been settled when members discovered that the company was hiring new engineers up to 14% above the newly-agreed market rates. To add insult to injury, some members were expected to assist and train the newly-arrived engineers
“We are aware of the challenges facing hiring managers in a difficult employment market and there is no ill feeling towards those new recruits who secured the market rate/above the market rate on entry.
“The ballot turnout, and members’ overwhelming decision to move towards industrial action, further underlines the injustice they feel.
“We will leave no stone unturned in seeking a solution and engagement with the employer, but as it stands this dispute will continue to escalate,” Perth concluded.