Executive Ministers’ clarification on eligibility must be followed by commitment by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council to furlough all employees on full pay 

Kieran Ellison1Guidance from Minister for Communities to local authorities clarifies they are eligible to furlough workers under government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Eligibility confirmation comes after union publicises case and writes to seek answers from both Finance and Communities’ Ministers

Unite Regional Officer Kieran Ellison welcomed the confirmation, by both Ministers for Finance and Communities, that local authorities can furlough workers under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

“Last week 73 workers, including many Unite members, faced being dismissed by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council at the end of the week. The council were claiming that as a public sector employer they were not eligible to furlough staff under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

“The guidance by the Minister for Communities, Deirdre Hargey, was issued after the Minister for Finance confirmed that public sector bodies could access the furlough scheme for workers involved with revenue-generating activities. These clarifications come after Unite wrote to both Executive and central government Ministers as part of our public campaign against the threatened dismissals at Antrim and Newtownabbey. They are welcome and open the door to public-facing employees being furloughed across the public sector. 

“Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has now written to their employees confirming they will seek to furlough workers across a number of departments. This commitment must extend to all employees being furloughed on full pay, whether they are temporary or permanent.

“Unite is currently seeking clarification on agency workers which the council have requested be furloughed alongside their colleagues. All workers need to be protected in the face of this pandemic threat – regardless of the status of their contract”, Mr Ellison concluded.

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