Council workers striking for a cost of living pay increase at Lisburn and Castlereagh blast unlawful use of agency workers in attempt to undermine industrial action

Unite the union will challenge desperate measures taken by bosses at local government authority who appear determined to avoid paying a cost of living increase to their employees regardless of the legality of their actions

Workers on picket lines at Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council who are engaged in all-out strike action expressed indignation as they heard the news that council bosses had moved to use agency workers to cover work impacted by their industrial action. Their union, Unite, has confirmed that it will proceed to challenge the unlawful status of management’s actions which are an attempt to break a strike by council workers seeking a cost of living pay increase.

Against a backdrop where retail price inflation is already 12.3 percent, management at Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council has failed to make any offer to address their workers’ demand for a pay adjustment which protects them and their families from hardship.

General Secretary of Unite, Sharon Graham, challenged council bosses on their unlawful attempt to undermine their employees’ industrial action:

“It is not lawful for any employer to take on agency workers or to reassign existing agency workers to cover work affected by industrial action. Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council is a local government body and it is completely unacceptable for them to act with such disregard for employment law.

“My union will seek all avenues to challenge this unlawful behaviour by council management. This is a shameful attack on their own workforce but it will only redouble the determination of council workers and their union to win a cost of living pay increase.”

Kieran Ellison is Unite Regional Officer for the council. He was scathing of management’s behaviour.

Kieran Ellison, Regional officer

“This is one of the only councils in Northern Ireland where there has been no pay offer whatsoever. While two other councils have concluded pay settlements which resolved their industrial disputes, and many others are involved in constructive negotiations, Lisburn & Castlereagh bosses offer nothing to their employees who are facing the worst cost of living crisis in decades. Management is acting disgracefully and need to be pulled in; councillors need to make it clear to management that flagrant breaches of law are not acceptable as they are sending a signal throughout the borough that any individual can break the law when it suits them.

“We have already reported this breach of employment law and we will use every angle to challenge this legally. The use of agency workers by council bosses to undermine a strike by their own workers – workers who were only months ago feted as essential and frontline – has been met with anger and derision on picket lines. Workers are standing for dignity and respect and they are determined to win both.”

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