News Background


Our earlier story on unions fears over Environment Agency job cuts.

GMB union official Frank Minal, who represents lock-keepers and flood prevention staff along the Thames, said: "It looks as though when the floods recede so will the jobs. It will be an absolute disgrace if the jobs go after the events of the past few weeks.

"The devastation has been bad enough but I fear that lives will be lost next time there are floods if staff numbers are cut. Staff I represent - lock and weir-keepers and flood defence staff have been working their socks off during this emergency."

The union says a recent rescue by Richard Hawkins, the resident lock & weir keeper at Abingdon highlights the need for staff to be kept on the river.

Richard rescued a boater who had fallen into the Thames. He then steered the 57 foot narrow boat, which had come adrift from its mooring in the fierce current, across the river where he was able to secure the vessel safely.

Six days earlier Richard had rescued a young boy who had slipped into the flood waters and was in danger of being swept into the weir.    

The union says the EA is seeking to end residential lock keeping on the Thames cutting the response time to localised incidents from around 15 minutes to an EA feasibility study target of 2 hours.

Union official Mr Minal said: "said "Richard's actions vindicate the GMB view that resident lock keepers are essential to maintain safety on the Thames. There is a long history of resident lock keepers responding in minutes day and night to these sorts of incidents."

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Story dated Feb 19th 2014