Environment Agency workers are being balloted on industrial action after bosses imposed a miserly 1.3% pay deal.
The government agency told staff it would force them to accept the below-inflation offer after UNISON members voted to reject it by an overwhelming 91%.
With inflation running at 3.3%, the offer is in reality a 2% pay cut. The workers have already seen their pay fall by over 20% in real terms since 2010.
It also lags far behind other workers in other areas of the public sector, and below the average private sector rise of 2.8%.
Local authority staff have been awarded 2.7%, NHS staff at least 3% and teachers 3.5%.
The offer even falls below those doing the same job north of the border: Scottish Environmental Protection Agency workers have accepted a 3% offer for the low paid and 2% for higher earners.
UNISON national officer for the environment Andrew Dobbie said: “Environment Agency workers have a vital job in protecting our homes and communities from flooding.
“They deserve a proper pay rise having had their pay cut by over 20% in real terms since 2010.
“That’s why they rejected the Agency’s offer of another real pay cut, and reject it being imposed after they said No.
“They are just asking to be treated fairly alongside their local authority colleagues.”
The ballot closes on 3 April. All UNISON members in the Environment Agency are encouraged to vote and make their voices heard.