Council and unions in talks over cleansing staff pay and inequality

Council and unions in talks over cleansing staff pay and inequality

9 September 2020

TALKS to avoid possible strike action affecting bin collection and other local services took place between trade unions and Newry, Mourne and Down Council yesterday afternoon.

The council confirmed that it met with officials from GMB, Unite, Nipsa and SIPTU at the Labour Relations Agency after unions registered a formal dispute with management.

Over 600 council employees took part in a consultative ballot several weeks ago and voted for strike action.

Alan Perry, GMB regional organiser, said the dispute was down to longstanding legacy inequality issues concerning pay and pay scales.

He said that some employees employed by the former Down District Council and those employed by the former Newry and Mourne Council were still not on the same terms and conditions — despite the new council being formed in 2014 after the Review of Public Administration.

Mr Perry conceded that while the new council chief executive, Marie Ward, had moved to bring in equal annual leave terms for some of its members, more needed to be done to satisfy staff demands.

He said: “The dispute centres around the failure of the chief executive to engage in a meaning way to address the differences in terms and conditions across the two legacy councils some five years after Newry, Mourne and Down came into existence.”

He said that the outstanding issues mostly centred around rates of pay and pay scales.

“For instance, we have the issue of one person who drives a bin lorry today who used to work for the former Down council who is on a Band 3, and another person doing the same job, who worked for the old Newry and Mourne council, is on a Band 4 — this can mean hundreds of pounds worth of difference,” said Mr Perry.

“When Ms Ward took over from Liam Hannaway, the former chief executive, in fairness to her she did promise to look at the issues but at the moment things have hit a buffer. Quite clearly we believe that she needs to go further to address these issues and we are officially in dispute.”

Mr Perry stressed it was important for all staff to be treated equally.

“While there are some discrepancies where former Newry and Mourne council staff would be on lesser pay or terms and conditions, it would be the legacy Down council staff who would be more in detriment in relation to the Newry side,” added Mr Perry.

“Staff are totally at the end of their tether when it comes to their terms and conditions which we believe that should have been dealt with.” 

“Talks are ongoing and I think the likelihood of any progress being made is very slim. If these talks fail, we do have a mandate from our members to take strike action but will be working to avert this. 

A spokesperson for the council said last night: “Newry, Mourne and Down District Council can confirm that a meeting is taking place today and advise that no further comment will be issued.”