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Pay dispute escalates in Newry, Mourne and Down District as unions implement work-to-rule agenda

Bins Newtownhamilton

A pay dispute between Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and trade unions has today (Monday) escalted with the implementation of a work-to-rule agenda.

Members of all four staff trade unions, Unite, GMB, NIPSA and SIPTU, agreed to work-to-rule last month – a job action in which employees do no more than the minimum required by the rules of their contract – with a second 24-hour strike date confirmed for January 27.

The four workforce trade unions representing the workforce at Newry, Mourne and Down District Council issued a statement last month threatening the move – a move councillors warned would result in severe disruption to council services, including bin collections.

Independent Councillor for Newry, Gavin Malone, speaking on Monday morning, said: “The Newry, Mourne and Down Council’s trade unions have announced they will be implementing a work to rule agenda from today the 4/01/2021 because management have failed to take seriously the issues they have been raising for a long period of time, with some matters outstanding for more than five years.

“Unfortunately this action will lead to a large number of bins not being collected over the coming weeks and I would recommend you ring the Council’s Customer Services phone number for uncollected bins during this period – 0330 1374047.”

Councillor Malone, who described the development as a “very unfortunate situation” has called on senior Council management “to immediately commence discussions with trade unions to find a resolution to this very serious matter”.

He added: “I am very concerned that employment discrepancies have been allowed to drift for nearly five years without resolution and I will be asking the Chief Executive to expedite negotiations without delay to ensure our excellent Council services are restored as a matter of urgency.”

In a joint statement before Christmas, the trade unions, said they had hoped to avoid having to announce further industrial action but “unfortunately council management refused to engage positively in the talks at the Labour Relations Agency”.

“They have intransigently failed to recognise our members’ legitimate expectations for pay equality,” it added.

The next 24-hour strike is due to take place on Wednesday, January 27 but workers will engage in a work-to-rule from today.

The statement continued: “Less this be misinterpreted, the unions have met with councillors to ensure that they understand that the adoption of a work-to-rule represents an escalation.

“In terms of impact a work-to-rule will result in very significant disruption to council activities as the local authority has become very dependent on overtime and other informal working arrangements.”

In a statement also issued last month, the council said it, too, hoped a resolution could be reached.

“Newry, Mourne and Down District Council remains fully committed to resolving this dispute, to ensuring fair pay, transparency and equality for all its employees and to delivering value for money for all rate payers in the council area, especially at a time when many are experiencing significant financial hardship,” a spokesperson said.

“The council will continue to work with the LRA (Labour Relations Agency) and to engage in dialogue with the trade unions to find a workable solution as quickly as possible.”

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