Council backs workers in their strike action today

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Derry City & Strabane District Council has backed thousands of civil servants who are striking today for better pay and conditions.

A motion to support members of NIPSA who are mounting industrial action over pay levels was supported by a majority of councillors at the monthly meeting for July.

Colr. Shaun Harkin, of People Before Profit, who proposed the message of solidarity, said: “The struggle for workers’ rights and equality has the potential to bring communities together. This is one of those fights.

“The demands being made are very modest. They want fair pay - which amounts to an above inflation pay increase and pay restoration. They want to stop the erosion of their terms and conditions. To do this they want negotiations reopened.”

Colr. Harkin’s motion ultimately passed with the support of his party colleague, Colr. Eamonn McCann, Sinn Féin, the SDLP, Alliance, Aontú and Independent councillors.

The DUP refused to support the call, with group leader Alderman Hilary McClintock, stating: “The wording we can’t agree on the part asking us to back strike action.

“It seems Colr. Harkin wants to bypass HR departments and run roughshod over procedures.”

There was also disagreement over an Alliance Party amendment moved by Colr. Philip McKinney, which inserted a clause calling on the Council to recognise the right of workers to take industrial action but to also acknowledge the current constraints on the public finances, call for engagement between the unions and employers, and call on all the political parties to get together and agree the restoriation of power-sharing.

Colr. Harkin said engagement had already ended.

“They have already imposed 1.25 per cent. That’s what the issue is. That’s why part of the demand is for negotiations to be reopened so they can renegotiate,” he said.

He also disagreed with Colr. McKinney’s insertion of a demand for Stormont to be resurrected.

“If we are waiting on Stormont what’s the point of going on strike?” he asked.

A further amendment proposed by Independent Paul Gallagher, calling for pay parity between Council workers from Derry and those from Strabane, was less contentious.

SDLP Councillor Martin Reilly, who supported the motion and both amendments said: “The SDLP was founded on civil rights and the labour movement so it comes as no surprise that we would support this type of motion. There is a definite need to respect workers in the public and the private sector. We know that they are unhappy with below inflation pay offers and pay freezes which are essentially a pay cut.”

Sinn Féin’s Christopher Jackson also backed the motion and said: “Despite the financial constraints imposed on us from Britain we are opposed to austerity. We are committed to delivering a living wage for all public sector employees and for the workers employed through contracts with any government agency.”