The ballot was called after the union rejected what it said was an “insulting” below-inflation 1.75 percent pay offer for 2020-2021.
The union said any industrial action is likely to impact waste collection services, school bus schedules and housing executive maintenance.
The union’s General Secretary, Sharon Graham, encouraged Unite members to use their ballots, make a stand for a 10 percent pay rise, and vote ‘yes’.
“Since last April the cost of living has risen dramatically to more than 7 percent and workers are now confronted with a cost of living catastrophe,” she said.
“The 10 percent pay claim we tabled for 2020-2021 reflects our members’ desire to win back some of what has been lost with similar below inflation pay deals in recent years. These workers are frontline, essential workers and deserve pay reflecting their commitment throughout the pandemic. It’s time that dedication is reflected in a decent pay reward.”
The lead Unite Regional Officer for local authority and education workers in Northern Ireland, Gareth Scott, also encouraged his members to vote ‘Yes’ pointing to the union’s £35m strike fund.
“Unite is determined to win improved pay for our members. That’s why we have built up a strike fund which is currently sitting at £35 million.
“Unite full rate of strike pay for eligible members is £70 a day which is there to help avert the worst hardships.
The News Letter invited the councils, Education Authority and NIHE to respond. Councils across NI confirmed that they were aware of the pending ballot and that it was not due to any particular local dispute, but that the issues are settled as part of national agreements made with central government. Some councils mentioned that they were putting plans in place to mitigate disruption in case of strikes. Belfast City Council added that in April 2021 its councillors agreed a motion to support the pay claims and wrote to the Chancellor for him to honour it.
The Housing Executive confirmed it had been notified about the ballot. “Should any industrial action arise, we will seek to ensure that any impact on customer service is minimised,” it added.
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