Housing Executive workers’ strike for improved pay to continue for a further four weeks

Absence of any movement from NIHE management on 1.75% offer “galling”.

Unite the union confirmed that it had lodged notification that the four week strike action being taken by its members working in the Northern Ireland Housing Executive will continue for a further four weeks. Housing workers in the union are seeking a pay improvement above the 1.75 percent increase for 2021-22 recommended by the National Joint Council for local authorities employers. Workers are seeking a two pay point uplift and a cost of living payment but as yet the union understands that management have not even sought any additional funding from the Department to settle the pay dispute.

Strike action at the housing executive is resulting an ever extending backlog of improvement work to public housing units. This is impacting social housing tenants who are left without measures to improve energy efficiency or for conversion to better suit those with disabilities. 

It has been widely reported in the press that companies performing these tasks for those contracts which have been outsourced have had their fees increased by 20 or even 30 percent – while workers performing the same tasks in-house through the Direct Labour Organisation have been offered a mere 1.75 percent improvement.

Unite is questioning how private companies with outsourced contracts and performing the same work as its members can obtain increases reported to amount to 20 or even 30 percent whereas workers are being offered an insulting 1.75 percent.

General Secretary of Unite, Sharon Graham, offered her continued support to the Housing workers:

Our housing workers provide vital maintenance and improvement services to social housing tenants. This galling 1.75% offer means they are left with no alternative but to extend their strike action for a pay increase.

“The absence of any movement to address our members’ pay claim and end this dispute from management is a truly shocking failure. Unite is full square behind these workers in their fight for a decent pay increase.”

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Unite the union is engaging to defend the interests of its members working at NuTrack

George Brash, Unite Regional Officer

NuTrack confirms to workers that the company has entered into administration in a further jobs blow to Ballymena

Unite the union this afternoon confirmed that it had received correspondence sent to workers from the owners of NuTrack, a manufacturer supplying components for buses, that the company had entered administration and has permanently closed operations as of 22ndSeptember 2022. 

The news threatens the livelihoods of several dozen workers who are employed by the company. It is a further blow to the Ballymena economy which has suffered a number of high profile closures and job losses in the manufacturing sector in the last decade.

Regional Officer for Unite, George Brash, confirmed his union would engage with the insolvency practitioner to safeguard his members’s interests in the process and with the aim of the company being transferred as a ‘going-concern’. 

“This is another jobs blow for the Ballymena area and for our manufacturing economy. We were informed earlier today that the company has now entered administration and has shut down production.

“We urge the company to give workers clarity on the situation and confirm as a matter of urgency who has been appointed to deal with the administration. That will then allow Unite to engage fully with the insolvency practitioners with the aim of ensuring that our members receive the fullest possible compensation if we cannot avoid job losses. Our objective entering this process is to defend this manufacturing capacity and as many jobs as we can.”

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Thales workforce vote with 77.5 percent majority for strike action in pursuit of improved pay

Unite the union urges management to improve pay and avoid prospect of strike action

Trade union, Unite confirmed its members at Thales in Northern Ireland have voted in an industrial ballot with a 77.5 percent majority for strike action in pursuit of improved pay. Following on from the ballot, the union called on management to meet in full its members’ pay claim for the year.

The claim, submitted in January, sought an ‘inflation-plus-one-percent’ increase of 8.1 percent based on the retail price index at that point in time. To date, management have offered only a five percent pay increase plus a non-consolidated one-off payment of £500.

Thales is a hugely successful business: in March bosses confirmed a dramatic 32 percent leap in profits to £1.4 billion for the year 2021 but they did not pass this onto workers – the source of all that profit – but increased dividends by 45 percent. Thales is forecasting even higher profits with sales for 2022 set to rise to £15.5 billion and profit margin forecast to increase to 11.1%; suggesting profits for the year will increase to £1.6 billion or a further 15 percent higher.

General secretary of Unite, Sharon Graham, challenged Thales to respond to the pay expectations of its Belfast workforce.

“The success of Thales in Northern Ireland has been trumpeted widely by the Tory government – indeed it was recently visited by a government minister. But those who contribute to that success are expected to accept a low ball five percent pay increase in the midst of a cost of living crisis.

Workers at Thales deserve better. This is a hugely successful business which can afford to pay out a proper pay increase meeting our members’ pay claim in full. Workers at Thales can count on the full support of Unite in securing that outcome.”

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Final day of Unite’s Irish Policy Conference hears motions covering equalities, organising and industrial areas

On the second day of Unite’s Sixth Irish Policy Conference in Malahide, delegates debated a range of motions covering equalities, organising and industrial areas, as well as the public sector.  Speakers also addressed motions on political and social action.

Introducing the Equalities debate, Regional Women’s and Equalities Officer Taryn Trainor referred to the need to protect people with ‘pre-existing conditions’ during the pandemic and said: “We know that ‘pre-existing conditions’ made people more vulnerable to Covid-19, but we also need to talk about ‘pre-existing inequalities’.  Because the pre-existing equality that made some groups more vulnerable – physically, mentally and economically – to the pandemic, is also making some groups more vulnerable to the cost of living crisis, and will make them more vulnerable to a recession”.

Speaking during the Equalities debate, Irish Executive Committee member and BAEM chair Memet Uludag gave a powerful speech on his own experience of racism, and concluded that:  “The fight against racism is not new in our union. But we need to advance this vision that brings our struggle to new strengths that reflects 21st century Ireland. A vision where our BAEM members are leaders in this union and branches. Unite has the potential to work with established anti-racism campaigns with the BAEM members at its centre. This will not only strengthen our union but also send out a powerful message: We will not be divided and our fight for economic justice is not separate from our fight for social justice”.

Introducing the organising debate, Organising Team Leader Tayra McKee said: Working people have been under attack over the last decade.  And if we are to successfully defend them, we ourselves have to put in the hard work of organising workers, building strong teams of workplace reps, building density, organisational capacity and ensuring workplaces are strike-ready. The gains made by our movement over the last two hundred years – and by this union and our predecessor unions over the past century – have been won by our collective strength.

Speaking at the start of a debate on a range of industrial motions, Regional Coordinating Officer Susan Fitzgerald said that motions highlighted the issues politicising a generation: “A generation is being politicised and mobilised by issues from low pay to the need to protect hard-won terms and conditions in the face of privatisation, as well as the need for reliable, stable and sustainable energy provision that does not wreak havoc on our environment”.

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Unite Irish Policy Conference 2022: Cost of living crisis and workers’ rights dominate first day of conference

The first day of Unite’s Sixth Irish Policy Conference in Malahide today (Monday) was dominated by motions on workers’ rights and energy costs.

Patricia King says cost of living crisis needs be to challenged head-on

The Conference started with an address by Congress General Secretary Patricia King who said:

“The cost of living crisis that is gripping Ireland and Northern Ireland is one that needs to be challenged head-on. We need to challenge the myth that is pedalled by some that improvements to wages will exacerbate the problems – it will not”.

Ms King continued: “We need to see Governments approach the cost of living crisis with the same urgency and intensity as the Covid 19 crisis’.

The chair of Unite’s Executive Council, Tony Woodhouse, said:

“Irish workers are facing a triple crisis:  a crisis of wages, a crisis of costs, and a profiteering crisis.  Every pay rise won for workers goes into the economy – not to the Cayman Islands”.  

Introducing the debate on the economy, Regional Secretary Jackie Pollock said:

“The cost of living crisis that we are experiencing is the worst in 40 years. Workers need to see pay increases that match inflation if we are not to suffer a collapse in living standards. The trade union movement has a vital role to play in defending workers and working-class people at this time”.

Mr Pollock added: “Collective bargaining is about respect and it’s time for the Irish government to respect working people and legislate for collective bargaining”.

Moving an Irish Executive Committee motion to address energy costs by imposing energy price caps throughout the island of Ireland, requiring that all energy companies offer customers their lowest rates regarding of the length of time customers have been with the company, and imposing a moratorium of disconnections, IEC member Bridie McCreesh said:

“These islands are among the least dependent in Europe on oil and gas from Russia for supply. There is no objective need for a spike in energy costs – the only reason we have them is that our private-for-profit model is charging us the same price that they can get for oil and gas on the global market. With a socially-owned and controlled energy sector we could keep energy prices down – but it seems no-one in power wants to talk about nationalisation”.

Introducing the debate on trade union, employment and workers’ rights, Unite Regional Coordinating Officer Tom Fitzgerald said: 

“There is a reason that successive governments have failed to legislate for full collective bargaining rights.  And it has nothing to do with constitutional impediments or any of the other impediments thrown out.  It is because the political and economic establishment know that there is nothing more powerful than the organised working class”.

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