Dispute between Council workers over legacy rights and wages and between management lingers on and may go to industrial action.
At a full council meeting on Monday 2nd November 2020, the issue of a dispute between Newry Mourne and Down District Council workers and management was raised on the back of an item from the SPR committee, and because it related to contractual HR matters in this current workers’ dispute, the discussion went ‘into committee’ ie press and public were excluded.
In coming out of committee, Council Chief Executive Marie Ward made a statement and said that the amendment decision “will apply on a voluntary basis in the event that net care reduction head cost savings cannot be achieved to the entirely voluntary redundancy scheme or the event that further reductions are required as a result of the ongoing pandemic.
“The Council recognises its duty to consult with the trade unions and in relation to any compulsory redundancy proposals. Consultations will take place in good time and will be undertaken in a meaningful way with a way of reaching agreement on a way of avoiding dismissals, reducing the number of dismissals, and mitigating their consequences.”
Altogether four unions have been engaged with Newry Mourne and Down District Council in trying to untangle the legacy issues from the two older councils, the Newry District Council and Down District Council where the council staff merged into the new super council, Newry Mourne and Down District Council. The Unions working together in the Joint Trade Union Side (JTUS) are Unite, GMB, SIPTU and NIPSA.
Workers contracts between the two legacy jurisdictions had not been fully harmonised and workers in the former Down District Council area were aggrieved that their “rights had been compromised”, and their respective trade union representatives have since engaged with the council with these issues over the past two years.
Commenting, Bridie McCreesh, Unite trade union representative, said: “We did write to the Council a short time ago asking for speaking rights at a meeting but we were turned down. We just wanted to explain to the councillors our position over the need to equalise worker’s payments and rights.
“Our calculation is that some workers will lose out by as much as £2500 if the Council’s proposals are implemented.
“We engaged with the Labour Relation Agency last September and got an indication that the Council were going to work with us. Now that seems to have fallen through. We now have had to ballot our members.
“The four unions have now balloted their members on a possible industrial action. The last day for the return of the ballots is the 11th December. We will know a few days after that where we are going with this. We have explicitly asked our members if they wish strike action or actions where they do not strike.
“The unions are disappointed that our local councillors have not managed to resolve this issue which could lead to industrial action if a solution is not found.”
Down News understands that Newry Mourne and Down District Council does not comment publicly on contractual HR issues regarding workers’ terms and conditions.