Scottish Water could struggle to respond to leaks, flooding and other incidents as employees announce 48 days of strike action over the next three months.

Members of Unite, GMB and Unison have all vote4d for strike action amid a long-running pay dispute after talks broke down earlier this month.

The state-owned water company has had the same pay structure for 21 years and has been designing a new one which unions say will limit their members' wages in future.

This month 78% of Unison's 1100 members at Scottish Water voted to strike, as did 86% of GMB members and 89% of Unite's 500 workers.

On Friday Unite announced the dates for its action, which will span 48 days over the next three months.

They will take place from November 10 to 13, then November 17-20, November 24-27, December 1-4, December 8-11, December 15-18, December 22-25, December 29 to January 1, January 5-8, January 12-15, January 19-22, and January 26-29.

In each case the action will begin at 00:01 on the first day and end at 23:59 on the last.

The union said the walkout would "significantly impair Scottish Water’s ability to respond to water leakages, flooding, pollution, and drinking water quality concerns".

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The action will mean that the union's members will not attend to burst pipes on motorways on strike days, attend to work relating to any sewer flooding issues or resolve problems with wastewater pumping stations which overspill into rivers.

The union warned this posed a "direct threat to the drinking water quality and a consequent risk to public health if responses to these situations were significantly delayed or left unattended due to staff being unavailable".

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham, said: “Unite’s 500-strong membership at Scottish Water has sent a crystal clear message to management that their behaviour will no longer be tolerated.

"Scottish Water has created this mess through their own arrogance and insatiable greed in the boardroom despite it being a public body.

"Unite will fully support our members in the fight for better jobs, pay and conditions at Scottish Water. Be in no doubt that we will hold management to account.”

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Alex Plant, the new chief executive of Scottish Water, has come under fire for earning a reported annual salary of £295,000, around £25,000 more than his predecessor.

Stephen Deans, Unite regional coordinating officer, added: “Scottish Water has paid lip service to our major concerns over pay which is being tied to a proposed new grading structure.

"The talks which have taken place with Scottish Water management following our membership emphatically backing strike have been in effect useless. Unite has therefore been left with no option but to serve notice of 48 days strike action over three months.

The Herald: Scottish Water

“Unite’s membership includes key frontline workers who attend to and repair waterworks, flooding and sewers.

"If the action goes ahead due to the intransigence of Scottish Water management, then this will have major public safety and health implications.” 

Scottish Water’s chief operating officer, Peter Farrer, said: “We have always wanted to do the right thing for our employees.

“We are also surprised this proposal isn’t being taken to union members which was something we requested happen.

“We now need to plan for a period of industrial action to ensure we can maintain services for our customers and do the right thing for them too.

“Planning for that scenario now is the responsible course of action.

“We are closely examining every aspect of our service which could be impacted.

“We will do so whilst remaining 100% committed to seeking agreement and a way forward which avoids industrial action.

"It is something we would always want to avoid.

“The door remains open to discussion and agreement despite the Acas process coming to an end.

“We do not want customers to experience any disruption to their supplies or services and will do all we can to minimise that risk.

“Maintaining public health and protecting the environment are key factors for us.

“We are working to do all that we can so we can make sure clean water supplies and effective waste water treatment services run to the high standard people in Scotland expect should we see any days of industrial action activity.”