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Strike imminent after talks break down over closure plans for electoral offices

Trade union NIPSA has warned that the EU referendum has been put at risk after talks at the Labour Relations Agency broke down today (Wednesday).

Officials blamed the “intransigence of the Chief Executive Officer and the Northern Ireland Office”.

Management proposals to close six regional electoral offices – including Banbridge – have been challenged by NIPSA members who, following a recent ballot, voted overwhelmingly to take strike action.

Following a conclusion to a second round of talks with the Chief Electoral Officer and NIO, Dooley Harte, NIPSA Official stated: “Unfortunately talks have broken down without agreement. NIPSA has put forward  reasonable proposals to keep regional services open while a public consultation, due in Autumn, is delayed to provide the necessary window to ensure this is as full and comprehensive as it can be.

“However, management have stated Ballymena and Newtownards offices will close in October and a public consultation will take place in September despite concerns it may not be complete.”

NIPSA has demanded that the public consultation on changes to electoral services should include co-location with Councils as well as assessment of the impact of new IT systems to be introduced in December. While this is likely to delay the process by six months, NIPSA argues this will allow for a more comprehensive process.

Management have not agreed and have confirmed their intention to carry out the consultation in the Autumn.

Speaking on the impact of strike action, Dooley Harte :”Friday 3 June is the closing date for postal votes while Tuesday 7 June is closing date for voter registration. Strike action on these dates may mean members of the public will not be able to participate in the referendum.  However the fault for this lies squarely with the Chief Electoral Officer and NIO for failing to agree a resolution to our reasonable proposals.”

NIPSA General Secretary, Alison Millar advised: “NIPSA’s Annual Conference, being held in Enniskillen today passed a motion fully supporting the NIPSA members in the Regional Electoral Offices who are about to commence on a period of industrial action.

“It is a disgrace that this group of workers are having to take this brave stand against the intransigence of the NIO and the Chief Electoral Officer.  NIPSA have taken all reasonable steps to avoid the action but this has been rejected at talks at the LRA.  Their trade union NIPSA stands resolute with these members in their fight for local services in local areas.

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