A ballot run amongst workers at Newry, Mourne and Down District Council by unions UNITE, GMB, NIPSA and SIPTU has seen a substantial majority of the workers call for industrial action. Action could see disruption to vital council services.

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. UNITE, GMB, NIPSA and SIPTU are to meet this Tuesday 17 November agree plan for escalation and potential strike dates.

Newry City, Photograph: Columba O'Hare

The Unions have called for council management to address workers’ grievances and avoid unnecessary and serious disruption to vital council services including cleansing and bin collections

In a joint statement the unions said “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.”

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