Workers set for strike

Workers set for strike

6 January 2021

TALKS between Newry, Mourne and Down Council and trade unions have failed to stop industrial action which started on Monday.

The industrial action, including a work-to-rule by all trade union members, is already having an impact with residents claiming overflowing bins have not being emptied.

A second day of strike action has been called for end of the month. It is understood there will be an increasing impact on bin collections which is made worse by the weather and pandemic restrictions.

Talks between the council and the unions broke down on Monday.

However, it was agreed at a meeting of the council that night that union officials would be be invited to a special meeting of the council to present their case.

The proposal, passed by 19 votes to 17,  was approved after the council went into private session for over an hour  – with the press and members of the public excluded from the online meeting.

A joint statement from the GMB, NIPSA, SIPTU and Unite unions yesterday stated that the the work-to-rule included a total ban on overtime; a refusal to cover for absentees; and working to job deions.

 The unions said the blame for the escalation lay “entirely at the feet of council bosses”.

They said: “”Councillors have been informed that a work-to-rule will result in a serious impact on service delivery as the council is hugely dependent on staff goodwill and overtime.

“We welcome the fact that councillors have backed a proposal by independent members for trade union representatives to be invited to address the policy and resources committee ahead of reconvened talks with management due to start on Friday.

“We are calling on councillors to intervene to end this dispute by ensuring pay equality, the terms and conditions and legal rights under TUPE of their workforce.”

Last night, a spokesperson for Newry, Mourne and Down Council confirmed that it put forward proposals for all refuse collection employees in the former Down District Council area to be employed on the same job description and grades as those working in the former Newry and Mourne Council area.

He said: “Acceptance of these proposals would see wages increasing for refuse workers in the former Downpatrick District area.

“Refuse drivers would receive an increase in their pay of over £2,000 on December 1, 2020 with a further increase of approximately £450 on April 1, 2021.

“Refuse operatives would receive an annual increase in their pay of over £400 with effect from December 1 2020 with a further increase of almost £400 on April 1, 2021.

“The Joint Trade Union Side (JTUS) rejected these proposals on behalf of their members.”