In a joint trade union side statement, workforce representatives laid the blame for the ‘regrettable’ industrial dispute at the feet of council management who had failed to address their members’ legitimate concerns.
“This dispute could have been readily resolved if the Chief Executive of the Council, Marie Ward, had engaged with the unions. Unfortunately, she has instead chosen to renege on her responsibility and has refused to meet directly with trade union representatives or deal with the workers’ legitimate concerns.
“Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is the only local authority in Northern Ireland which has not resolved the pay differences and the disparities in terms and conditions arising from amalgamation more than five years ago. In seeking to resolve this problem, rather than harmonise upwards as other councils have done, council bosses here have sought to push the cost on the backs of workers. Current proposals would leave some waste collection workers facing a loss of up to £2,500 a year while a prejudicial job evaluation process they’ve sought to introduce opens the door to further attacks on staff pay and conditions for all council workers.”
The unions have warned that although workers are keen to avoid unnecessary disruption to the lives of the community in the run up to the Christmas period, they will be forced to escalate the action in the New Year.
“Council workers are aware that the Covid-19 pandemic has made 2020 a really hard year for the entire community in Newry, Mourne and Down. It is with regret that we are being forced to take this action in order to improve our pay and protect our terms and conditions.
“The first day of strike action will be Thursday December 3rd with a twenty-four hour stoppage that will bring all council activities to a standstill. If our members’ concerns are not resolved, we will be forced to escalate the action in January 2021. It is in the management’s hands to resolve this dispute – we call on them to do so urgently.”