Council workers may strike over back pay

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Some of the lowest paid workers at Derry City Council could be set to ballot for industrial action over pay owed to them as a result of a job evaluation process, the Journal understands.

If a strike is called, grave diggers, staff at the city’s leisure centres, street cleaners and refuse collectors are among the workers who will take part, potentially cutting off vital services in the city.

A group of employees at the Council who contacted the Journal have claimed that morale is now at an “all time low” among some of the lowest paid city council employees.

The tensions are part of the ongoing process of evaluating workers under the 1997 single status agreement between local governments and trade unions.

The single status agreement was designed to streamline all pay scales into one with the intention of assuring equal pay for all workers at a certain level.

However many staff are owed back money after their jobs were evaluated at what would mean a higher level of pay. It’s understood that while unions had negotiated a four year retrospective payment, management at Derry City Council now want to take a number of “add ons”, including overtime, from the final lump sum payments which it is claimed would leave workers with what’s been described as “a negligible amount of money.”

One man, who has a job as a general operator, told the Journal “people are so frustrated and workers are really angry about this. This has been going on for years. It’s ridiculous.”

Liam Gallagher, chairman of UNITE the Union, said: “The difficulty is that some workers at Derry City Council had a bonus scheme and overtime worked in to their contracts and single status eradicates all of this so that the pay for all is equal.

“There will be a four year retrospective payment for those whose pay is upgraded, and those who are downgraded will have their pay protected at their current salary for four years going forward.”

Mr. Gallagher said that his union will be arguing that no member will lose out ahead of the Review of Public Administration which will see Derry City merge with Strabane District Council.

“Our argument will be that all jobs are uplifted to the higher grade,” he said.

In a statement issued last week, prior to revelations about possible industrial action, a spokesperson for Derry City Council said: “The appeals process is currently ongoing and Council is committed to concluding the Single Status process ahead of the implementation of the new amalgamated Council in April 2015.”