Monday, October 18, 2010

Government plans could compromise safety says BW staff Union

British Waterways staff fear that reliance on volunteers for vital maintenance work could compromise the safety of canal users and they are seeking assurances  that enough employed skilled staff will be retained to prevent potential devastation. 

"We have real fears that the vital maintenance work that is needed on the waterways network will be forced to rely on the efforts of volunteers to fill gaps left by qualified engineers, if enough funding is not found", said Julia Long, the Unite National Officer for docks and waterways. 
She continued, "Caring for our 250-year old working heritage that spans canals, reservoirs, aqueducts, bridges and locks, requires intensive management and significant funding, yet year after year central government has only provided enough money to fund 90 per cent of the urgent work.
"It is simply not appropriate to hand over essential infrastructure maintenance to volunteers —  BW maintain the 2,200 mile canal network in the UK and the recent announcement by government is very disturbing as it increases the level of flood risk to the homes, offices and buildings along the banks of the canal network.
"Unite is calling for the government to give guarantees that there will not be a wholesale cull of the workforce — and that enough employed skilled staff will be retained to prevent the potential devastation which would be caused if just one of the banks gave way."
Julia went on to explain that the water network provides a system that gives £65 million worth of drainage from fields as well as leisure and environmentally-friendly freight transport and she she concluded, "Half the population lives within five miles of a canal or river and 13 million people use them every year as part of their everyday life - as a short-cut to work, walking the dog — or simply taking time-out and watching the boats."

Fact file: 
BW employ 1,800 staff who maintain 1,654 locks, 54 tunnels, 3,115 bridges, 
417 aqueducts and 91 reservoirs.

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