Industrial action escalates at Newry, Mourne and Down District Council as mediated talks collapse after management refuse trade union proposal to end dispute

Kieran Ellison Unite Regional Officer

All four staff trade unions, Unite, GMB, NIPSA and SIPTU, warn work-to-rule will result in severe disruption to services hugely dependent on overtime and staff goodwill

Councillors vote to back proposal by independent members for trade unions representatives to appear before Policy & Resources committee ahead of fresh pay talks on Friday [January 8th]

A work-to-rule at Newry, Mourne & Down District Council commenced on Monday [January 4th] after mediated talks between management and trade union representatives broke down. The four workforce trade unions issued the following collective statement stating that the blame for the escalation lay entirely at the feet of council bosses.

“The trade unions entered into LRA-mediated talks with management with the hope of avoiding an escalation of industrial action by negotiating pay equality and a fair and equitable job evaluation process. Unfortunately talks collapsed after management were unable to respond to a counterproposal by the trade union side which had the potential to address outstanding TUPE issues and their implications for pay and allowances. All four unions were able to provide detailed opinion from legal counsel in support of our proposal and we expected the same from management. To our disappointment they refused our proposal claiming that legal opinion could not be obtained.

“The responsibility for the escalation of this dispute lies solely at the feet of council bosses who have had years to resolve this issue – but have only resolved those aspects ensuring a beneficial pay arrangement for themselves.

“The planned work-to-rule by council employees commenced yesterday [Monday 4th January 2021]. This takes the form of a total ban on overtime; a refusal to cover for absentees; and working to job descriptions, contracts and written, agreed protocols, where these exist. Refuse staff will be lifting their routes on a daily basis and not returning the next day to lift work that has not been collected.

“Councillors have been informed that a work-to-rule will result in a serious impact on service delivery as the council is hugely dependent on staff goodwill and overtime. We welcome the fact that councillors have backed a proposal by independent members for trade union representatives to be invited to address the policy and resources committee ahead of reconvened talks with management due to start on Friday [January 8th]. In the absence of a responsible approach by corporate management, we are calling on councillors to intervene to end this dispute by ensuring pay equality, the terms and conditions and legal rights under TUPE of their workforce.”

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