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Unite announces first targeted local government strikes

Northern Ireland council workers, education and housing executive workers announce first week of strike action for pay justice

 

Members in some housing associations are employed on scales that mirror local government (NJC) scales and are following this year’s pay round closely. Workers on thse scales have suffered a real terms pay cut of over 22% over the last eleven years.

 

Unite recently announced that there would be targeted strike action in local government following members rejection of the employers 1.75% pay offer as reported here. Unite's statement is reproduced below.

 

Nineteen NJC employers

 

Unite calls on employers to move on pay to avert disruption from strike action set to commence next Monday [21 March]. Industrial action set to proceed at nineteen NJC employers after large majorities of Unite members vote for strike action.

 

 

Unite the union has today given notice of pending strike action for a pay increase by its members at all eleven local councils, the Education Authority, the NI Housing Executive, North West Regional College, Belfast Metropolitan College, St Columb’s College, South Eastern Regional College, Lumen Christi College and the Northern Regional College.

 

Localised settlements

 

The strike action occurs after members rejected a pay offer from local government employers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland of just 1.75 percent for the year 2021-22. The pay offer would mean another real terms pay cut and comes after eleven years of pay freezes.

 

The union is seeking localised settlements to deliver improved pay despite the other two signatory unions in the bargaining processes of the ‘Green Book’ NJC having agreed the 1.75% pay offer. Unite is seeking locally-agreed improvements through raising pay grades, reduced working hours, more paid holidays and other benefits.

 

Council workers, education workers and Housing Executive workers in Northern Ireland have watched their pay stagnate over the last decade meaning real terms falls in their standards of living of 11 percent over the period and this is set to get worse. The NJC pay offer of a bare 1.75 percent increase is actually a real terms pay cut of more than seven percent set against a 1.25% hike in national insurance and surging inflation (currently 7.8%).

 

Punishing living costs

 

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham commended her members in local authorities in Northern Ireland on their determination to win a cost of living pay increase, saying:“I want to congratulate my members working in local authorities in Northern Ireland for the strength of their ballot for strike action; they have the full backing of my union in their strike action.  The employers must now respond by tabling a pay deal in line with our members’ expectations and to meet punishing living costs.  Unite is determined to see real improvements won by local authority workers in Northern Ireland.”

 

Lead Regional Officer for local authorities, Gareth Scott, called on management to negotiate and highlighted the strength of feeling among his members.   “These ballots confirm the determination of Unite members in local authorities to secure a decent cost of living increase. The majorities in favour of strike action in councils, the education authority and the housing executive were exceptional; our members are calling time on real terms pay cuts. Management must now engage with us to identify how they can address our members’ pay expectations within the NJC framework so as to avoid what is likely to be a disruptive dispute affecting council services, school transport and housing executive maintenance.”

 

The picket lines will be going up on Monday morning for the first week of strike action by Unite members.

 

14th March 2022

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