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Watch: DUP and UUP accused of ‘continually blocking’ efforts to end strike

It comes as workers look to the possibility of an 'indefinite' walk-out when the current four-week strike ends this weekend

The Alliance Party has accused both the DUP and Ulster Unionists of blocking progress and securing a deal to end the ongoing strike across the borough.

It comes as workers look to an indefinite strike when the current four-week industrial action ends this weekend.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has come under fire from unions for failing to move on all of its asks and they have insisted that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.

This all comes as recycling centres remain closed and rubbish piles up all across the council area, with repeated warnings of the potential for vermin due to littered streets and estates.

Earlier on Monday, Sinn Fein said it had twice brought forward proposals that would “help break the deadlock and deliver an end to the strike”.

And Councillor Liam Mackle added: “Sadly our proposals have not enjoyed the support of the majority of councillors and we now call on all parties and members to publicly state their position.”

Tonight, Alliance Party group leader, Councillor Peter Lavery, did just that.

He said: “The Alliance Party group recognises the current situation cannot go on and has continued to engage within the process pushing for greater flexibility for the council negotiating team.

“Unfortunately, the DUP and UUP groupings within council have continually blocked every opportunity for council’s management team to negotiate fully.

“This has now left us in a precarious situation, with little room to find a solution best suited to all.

“The ongoing cost of living crisis is impacting greatly on households across our borough, including on council staff, as well as on the council as an organisation.

“As a group we believe there is a way forward which balances responsible financial management, a fair deal for staff and high-quality public services and will continue to pursue a mutually agreed outcome as a matter of urgency.”

In response, the Council’s UUP representatives said: “Our party group are talking regularly, passing on concerns from rate payers regarding local facilities, speaking to union reps to see where any compromise can be made and engaging with rate payers to gauge public feeling on where we go with any renewed offer.

“Above everything, we need to keep the care of our valued staff in mind. It is they who deliver our services and without whom we would not function.

“A pay deal that reflects their skills and meets the current financial pressures all households are now facing is needed and deserved.

“We are very aware we must be responsible with the public purse and the impact a pay rise will have on either the level of service we offer, or a mitigating rate rise to meet the financial pressure.

“We are also very aware that divisive Party political statements from others are not helpful to our management and negotiating team as we all try to chart a path through this which will benefit all.”

So far, unions and Council have agreed on two of the three conditions. A hardship lump sum has been agreed in principal and while an exact figure has not been made public, it is “over and beyond” £1,400.

Harmonisation has also been agreed, bringing the three legacy council areas under one payment structure, meaning some workers will receive in excess of £5,000.

However, the impasse lies with the incremental pay progression. According to the unions, without a mandate (majority vote among elected representatives), senior council management cannot negotiate. That has been voted down already by the Unionist majority in Council.

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