Trade unions representing workers in Newry, Mourne and Down District Council have issued a joint call for workers at the local authority to vote for industrial action, and action falling short of industrial action, in an industrial ballot that's live until 11 November.

The call is believed to be related to pay differences and wider terms and conditions disparities arising from the coming together of the legacy Down District Council and Newry and Mourne District Council in April 2015. Talks between the unions and the council are ongoing.

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council office in Downpatrick.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council office in Downpatrick.

GMB, NIPSA, SIPTU and UNITE are all involved in the call and speaking about the situation Kevin Kelly of NIPSA, acting as the Joint Trade Union Side secretary said “Proceeding to take industrial action is always a last resort for trade unions – and that is even more the case at this time when we face the Covid-19 pandemic. After months and years seeking resolution through the avenue of negotiations, the trade union side has regretfully been left with no option but to ballot our members for industrial action.

“Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is the only local authority left in Northern Ireland to have failed to resolve the pay differences and wider terms and conditions disparities arising from the coming together of the legacy councils back more than five years ago.

“Council management has failed to abide by the terms & conditions agreement setting out how changes to T&Cs would be dealt with and they departed from guidelines agreed in the Job Evaluation scheme leading to detrimental treatment for our members.

“They seem to believe that this process offers an opportunity to attack our members’ pay and terms and conditions – detailed proposals previously made threaten to leave workers across the board facing devastating cuts, amounting to £2,500 a year in some cases. At the very same time, council bosses have had no issue advancing themselves an early, upward harmonisation of their own salaries resulting in huge uplifts at senior management level."

Mr Kelly added “After Chief Executive Marie Ward learned that we would ballot our members, she moved swiftly to issue a communication designed to muddy the waters and cut across our democratic process. While she appeared to offer a partial climb-down, the mechanism proposed made absolutely no sense. Even if it did make sense, it was nowhere near enough to address our concerns comprehensively. The trade union side has since written back to the Chief Executive to demand clarity on what she is actually proposing."

“In the absence of such clarity and moves to avoid any detriment, the four unions are left with no option but to proceed. The ballots will remain open for three weeks, closing 11 November. We encourage council workers to use this opportunity and send the strongest possible message to management by voting both for industrial action and for action short of industrial action”, Mr Kelly concluded. asked Newry, Mourne and Down Council for a comment and a Spokesperson said “While Newry, Mourne and Down District Council does not comment on matters relating to members of staff, talks between the Council and the recognised trade unions are ongoing.”

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