Council workers to ballot on strike

Council workers to ballot on strike

14 October 2020

STRIKE action by council workers is back on the cards after talks between trade unions and Newry, Mourne and Down Council failed last week.

The council’s chief executive Marie Ward will receive official notice from four trade unions today that its members will be balloted shortly.

Nearly 90% of all employees will be asked by November 11 whether to strike for a day or take industrial action short of full-out strike, such as an ban on overtime work.

If passed, industrial action could be taken by the end of next month.

NIPSA, SIPTU, GMB and UNITE issued a statement yesterday to confirm the move.

The issue between trade unions and management is over differences in pay and conditions between employees of the old Down Council and Newry and Mourne Council left over from the merger in 2014.

Several meetings facilitated by the Labour Relations Agency were held over the last few weeks with another joint meeting due tomorrow.

However, trade unions claim that they had been left with no other option than industrial action after believing that progress had been made in April.

Trade unions have accused council management of “stalling the process and offering only detrimental solutions that no trade union or member could accept” and giving “lip service” to an agreed way forward.

A spokesman for the trade unions said: “There is never a good time to take industrial action. It is taken as a final resort and this is no exception. 

“We would also ask the public to understand our members’ concerns. These include asking them to carry out the exact same jobs for the same employer but depending on where you do it, can lead to a pay difference of up to three thousand pounds per year.”

Last night the council said it had not yet been advised of any strike action and was “very surprised and extremely disappointed” to learn of the latest trade union stance.

A spokesperson confirmed that the council had agreed “to address the operational differentials between the Newry and Downpatrick refuse collection services”.

The spokesperson said: “It had been agreed that the joint trade unions (JTUS) would provide their concerns to management in writing ahead of our next meeting, scheduled to take place this Thursday at management’s request. However, management have yet to receive these from the JTUS.”

The spokesperson added: “Council management are committed to achieving efficient and effective services across the council for the ratepayer of Newry, Mourne and Down, whilst recognising and fairly rewarding the efforts of our staff across the district.”