By Gordon Thomson
AROUND 2000 Scottish Water staff were expected to walk out on strike today in protest at a below inflation pay rise.
Strikers included engineers who repair water bursts and staff responsible for water quality at a network of 44 treatment plants in and around Glasgow.
More industrial action was expected to be taken by members of Unison, GMB and Unite if the utility giant fails to return to the negotiating table to resolve the dispute.
Scottish Water which employs almost 3700 workers has imposed a wage rise worth 3% over 15 months.
Strike leaders say it's the equivalent of an annual rise of just 2.4%.
They are demanding a bigger increase and point to hefty pay hikes of up to 40% executive board members have awarded themselves in the past two years.
Unison official Dave Watson said: "In recent years our members workers have helped to save Scottish Water over £1billion through reduced operating costs and improved efficiencies.
"Customers and directors have benefited, while workers have faced real terms pay cuts due to inflation.
"Scottish Water has the money to make a reasonable pay deal - the problem is the Scottish Government is blocking them from doing so."
Union negotiator Dougie Black said: "I would invite Scottish Water and the Scottish Government, even at this late stage, to come back to the negotiating table.
"We are always ready to talk about a way to settle this dispute."
Unite has not commented but GMB negotiator Richard Leonard has likened Scottish Water to a "Victorian Mill owner", adding: "We are looking for public support.
"This dispute is about looking after people who look after our environment, our public health and our natural resources."
Scottish Water claims the pay rise meets public sector wage constraints and insisted the 24-hour strike due to begin at noon would have little or no effect.