NMD Council workers have voted overwhelmingly in a ballot to take industrial action to defend pay and conditions.
Unions call for council management to address workers’ grievances and avoid unnecessary and serious disruption to vital council services including cleansing and bin collections
A statement posted on the social media networks of the trade unions –UNITE, GMB, NIPSA and SIPTU – said they are to agree plans for the escalation and potential strike dates on Tuesday 17th November.
The four unions, Unite, NIPSA, SIPTU and GMB have joined forces to represent the workers in an unresolved dispute that has ran on for a number of years.
Kieran Ellison, Unite Regional Officer said: ” Unions representing workers in Newry Mourne and Down District Council have issued a joint statement confirming that strong majorities were recorded for industrial action in ballots run concurrently.”
The statement said:
“In ballots run by the four unions concurrently members have voted overwhelmingly in favour of both action short of strike and for strike action. The majorities in each case were 58 percent and 78 percent in NIPSA, 63 percent and 87 percent in Unite, 86 percent and 95 percent in SIPTU and 100 percent on both questions in GMB.
“Since the ballots opened, council bosses have openly sought to remove TUPE protected voluntary severance entitlements and this has only further galvanised the determination of the workers to defend themselves.
“The stage is set for a hugely disruptive industrial dispute which will cause serious inconvenience to the public. This is certainly not an outcome sought by council workers.
“Industrial action is always a last resort for trade unions but the actions of management have left us with no alternative to defend our members’ pay and conditions.
“Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is now the only local authority left in Northern Ireland which has not resolved the pay differences and terms and conditions disparities arising from amalgamation more than five years ago.
“Management in the council appear intent on pushing the costs of amalgamation onto their workforce. Rather than harmonise upwards as other councils have done, they have sought to harmonise downwards: current proposals would leave some waste collection workers facing a loss of up to £2,500 a year! They have also sought to introduce a prejudicial job evaluation process which opens the door to further attacks on staff pay and conditions.
“Local authority workers are frontline when it comes to delivering critical services. Throughout the Covid lockdown our members have continued to deliver vital services but these strong ballot results confirm they will not be walked over.
“All four trade unions stand together and urge council management to address our members’ legitimate grievances and avoid an entirely unnecessary industrial dispute.
“We are calling on local elected representatives to intervene and ensure that we avoid huge disruption in the midst of a pandemic.”
The four trade unions will meet to agree dates and actions in a strategy that will escalate industrial action on Tuesday [November 17th].
Down News contacted Newry Mourne and Down District Council for a comment and a spokesperson said: “Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is unable to provide further comment on this matter at this time.”
The tensions between the four trade unions and Council management are significant as indicated in a joint letter from the unions previously sent to the 41 councillors on Newry Mourne and Down District Council signed by Kevin Kelly (JTUS secretary) that Down News was privy to. Given that the letter contains issues of a contractual nature being disputed, Down News recognises these sensitivities and therefore has refrained from publishing the details given that these matters have been discussed at Council meetings ‘in committee’.