NI councils can end strikes, union insists

The Unite trade union has rejected claims that Northern Ireland councils lack the powers necessary to negotiate with striking workers.

Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham
Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham

Several councils and council officials have claimed in recent days that they do not have the authority to come to an arrangement with the Unite trade union, whose members are striking after rejecting a 1.75% pay increase amid soaring inflation.

Earlier this week, the chief executive of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon council said that since “the pay award is agreed and negotiated nationally” there was nothing for the council to negotiate.

Other councils have adopted a similar approach to the strikes.

Unite, however, insist there is room for manoeuvre for a breakthrough that could end the strike.

A spokesperson for the union said: “The employers can develop local formulas that would allow an offer above the present 1.75 percent, which is way below the current real rate of inflation (RPI) of nine per cent. Most other pay and conditions — such as overtime and public holidays — can be set locally giving scope for councils to move.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Nobody wants to hear about what the NCJ can’t do – what we do need to hear about is how they will use the powers that they do have to deliver fair pay.

“An offer of 1.75 percent is not a pay increase - it’s a pay cut and is plainly unacceptable to this union. Unite members need to see a genuine improvement to their pay and conditions. These employers can and must now deliver that.”

Gareth Scott, Unite regional officer,said: “Unite is determined to improve our members’ pay and conditions.” He added: “Instead of misinforming the public about what they can and cannot do, the employers would be better served entering meaningful negotiations to end this dispute by providing Unite’s members a genuine improvement to pay.”