Strike on hold for talks as bank boss warns against pay increases

Strike action by council workers seeking “fair pay in the midst of the worst cost-of-living crisis for decades” has been put on hold for talks.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 6th August 2022, 8:08 am

Members of the Unite, GMB and NIPSA trade unions had been preparing to strike on Wednesday in the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon area in what would have marked the first occasion in the recent wave of industrial action that all three unions went on strike at once in one of Northern Ireland’s 11 local government areas.

But the action has been “paused” by the unions to allow fresh talks to take place, following a meeting with local councillors and the UUP leader Doug Beattie earlier this week.

GMB official Alan Perry said: “Working people deserve fair pay in the midst of the worst cost of living crisis for decades.

Unite members on strike at Belfast City Council earlier this year

“We are hopeful that these new talks will lead to meaningful shifts from management. As such, we have paused our strike action.”

He added: “I’d like to thank the local councillors and MLA for their supportive work on this.”

Meanwhile, the Bank of England governor has insisted pay increases are not the best way to tackle inflation.

Andrew Bailey, speaking a day after the Bank announced an interest rate hike, reiterated concerns over the potential impact of higher pay despite rocketing household bills.

He also stressed worries over firms seeking to pass bigger pay rises onto consumers.

“If everybody tries to beat inflation, it doesn’t come down, it gets worse, that’s the problem,” he said in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“I put this in terms of high pay rises and high price increases, because in that world it’s the people who are least well off who are worst affected, because they don’t have the bargaining power,” he said.

On Thursday, officials at the Bank warned that households will face a 15-month recession and inflation of more than 13% later this year.

In response, it raised interest rates from 1.25% to 1.75%, the biggest increase for 27 years, in a move which will put further pressure on mortgage holders.

SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan has now called for a ‘mortgage support scheme’ in light of the likelihood of a prolonged recession.

“Following the announcement by the Bank of England, the scale of the challenge facing families right across the North could not be starker,” the Foyle MLA said.

“In the coming months people who are already struggling to get by are going to see their mortgage payments rise by hundreds of pounds and many people are not going to be able to make these payments.

“Over the past two years I have repeatedly petitioned both the Finance and Communities Ministers to implement a mortgage support scheme to help people who are under serious pressure.

“I raised it during the pandemic, when the cost of living crisis began to bite and now we are on the verge of a recession and still no action has been taken.”