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Union dismisses ABC Council claim it is powerless to stop two-week strike

'Significant disruption' is expected from tomorrow, according to ABC Council, as union officials say local agreements to help 'treat their employees fairly' could resolve dispute

Union officials insist denials by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council that it has no power over staff pay-structures which could avert forthcoming strike action are not true.

The council says it is expecting “significant disruption” from tomorrow (Monday), during a prolonged two-week industrial action.

And it anticipates that bin collections, household recycling centres, street cleaning and parks, pitches and greens teams to be worst hit.

Those striking will down tools from just after midnight tonight, until next Sunday night, May 1, and resume action on Tuesday, May 3, through until Sunday, May 8.

An ABC Council spokesperson said: “We wish to apologise to residents in advance for the inconvenience that strike action will cause and are keen to reassure them that every effort is being made to minimise disruption.

“Regrettably this strike action is beyond our control as it relates to a dispute over 2021-2022 pay, which is negotiated by the National Joint Council on behalf of councils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

This, however, has been disputed by Unite the Union officials locally.

Reps say they are in a “trade dispute” with ABC Council and argue that it could take action locally.

A spokesperson told Armagh I : “We are currently in trade disputes with 19 local authorities, all of which are in respect of pay and conditions.

“The NJC at national level sets the rate for each of the pay points, which is what the 1.75 per cent increase was applied to; however, most other pay and conditions can be set by local agreements.

“For example, each council can set their own pay scales. In other words they can decide locally how many pay scales they will have and which NJC pay points they will use in each pay scale.

“This means that rates can vary from council to council and offers considerable flexibility for councils at local level to negotiate their own pay levels.

“Councils can also do local agreements on pay and conditions for holidays, overtime rates, evening work, night work, Saturday or Sunday working, working on public holidays, shift work, unsocial hours, standby duty, recall to work (including travel time), and free and rest day working.

“There is therefore considerable scope for councils to enter into local agreements on pay and conditions and more than enough to resolve this dispute.

“It is certainly not accurate to state that councils cannot agree local agreements on pay and conditions. It is a question of whether they are willing to make agreements to resolve these dispute and to treat their employees fairly.”

ABC Council, meanwhile, has issued information to local ratepayers about what could be expected within the borough over the next fortnight and what they should do.

Said a spokesperson: “A strike lasting two weeks is unusual and has not been experienced by this council to date.

“The council is keen to make residents aware that the main council services most likely to be impacted are household recycling centres, bin collections, street cleansing as well as parks, pitches and greens.

“Some household recycling centres will remain open but sites may be required to close at short notice if not enough staff are available.

“Bin collections cannot be guaranteed during the period of industrial action. There will be significant disruption to bin collections during this strike period. Residents are advised to leave their bins out for collection on their normal day. They will be emptied where there are sufficient crews to deliver a service.

“If bins are not emptied, residents are asked to take their bins back in from the kerbside and place them out again on their next scheduled collection day, for that waste stream/colour.

“Collections missed week commencing April 25 will return to normal from Monday, May 9. Collections missed week commencing May 2, will return to normal collection from Monday, May 16.

“It is recommended that householders make full use of their green and brown bins to recycle as much waste as possible to maximise bin capacity.

“A limited street cleansing service will be available and this will impact street sweeping, litter picking and street bins. Some bookings for pitches within council parks may be affected. Clubs and individuals affected will be contacted directly and advised as soon as possible. Refunds will be offered for all cancellations.

“The council recognises the continued adverse impact of Unite the Union’s actions and wants to reassure residents and customers that full service provision will resume as soon as possible. The situation will be kept under review.”

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