Workers at Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council demand answers on threatened outsourcing of festive lighting

Kieran Ellison Unite Regional Officer

Council workers told decision to outsource was taken at council Development committee meeting of September 2nd without any consultation with representative trade unions

Unite the union challenges economic case for outsourcing of Christmas lighting across entire borough to private contractor, after last year’s debacle on costs of lighting Lisburn

Kieran Ellison, Regional Officer for Unite confirmed that members of his union had been informed that their role in erecting festive lighting was to be outsourced to an unknown private sector operator following a decision taken behind closed doors at last week’s council Development committee. 

If the information provided to our members is accurate, this will be a major blow to the council workers affected and opens the door to much more widespread outsourcing of work by Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council. We are particularly disappointed and concerned over the manner in which this decision appears to have been taken: behind closed doors and with absolutely no consultation with representative trade unions. 

“Over recent years, our members have generously made concessions to hold down the cost of festive lighting to ratepayers – indeed, council electricians who provide the lighting on overtime do not receive any higher rate. But with this decision, those efforts have been thrown back in their faces. Instead workers have been told that the previous three-year contract to outsource festive lighting in Lisburn City will now be extended across the entire district. 

“The extra hours involved in putting up lights makes a huge difference to the council workers who rely upon the extra money at Christmas time. Some of these workers have young families and coming on the back of the tumult of pandemic, this is a real blow to them. Many workers fear for their job security given the way in which this decision was taken without any explanation offered. What else is to be outsourced? Those who will be most affected are the last to know. 

“After the debacle on costs of festive lighting last year, when because of a contractual arrangement the council was tied into paying more than half a million pounds of ratepayers money on lighting Lisburn – estimated to be twice the cost of lighting Belfast City – our members are questioning the economic logic of this proposal. They just can’t see how outsourcing this work to a private company which has to make a profit on top of their price can compete with the small cost of doing this work in-house – given the concessions that the workers have offered.

“Unite and our workforce reps are seeking an urgent meeting with council management to obtain clarity on this decision, its scale and any economic case. We will seek to meet with the leaders of the political groupings on the council to press them to remove this threat from our members and ensure that it is Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council workers who put up the festive lights this Christmas”, Mr Ellison said. 

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