Derry & Strabane Council to meet with unions after strike action

Derry & Strabane Council have confirmed they have offered to hold talks with UNITE and other union reps following strike action by staff this week.

The move comes after numerous services were impacted by the industrial action this week, with bin collections suspended, and recycling centres, swimming pools and some public parks closed.

Unite union members across the north are striking over pay and conditions after they overwhelmingly rejected a pay offer of an increase 1.75% for the current year.

Union officials said the offer is unrealistic following years of pay freezes and the cost of living crisis.

Council employees and trade unionists picket Derry City Council Offices on Strand Road on Monday afternoon as part of industrial action take over better pay demand. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2212GS – 012

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A spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council said that the Annual Pay increases are negotiated at UK level on behalf of councils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and that all NI Councils, including Derry & Strabane are represented at the negotiating table by an elected representative appointed by NILGA, the Northern Ireland Local Government Association. Derry City and Strabane District Council then implements the outcome of these negotiations.

“The 2021-22 pay award of 1.75% has been agreed at UK level. However, Unite the Union formally advised employer organisations in Northern Ireland on March 11th 2022, including the 11 Councils, of notice of this week’s industrial action in relation to a trade dispute over 2021/22 pay,” the Council spokesperson said.

“Derry City and Strabane District Council has not been directly involved in the UK level negotiations. On receipt of notification of the upcoming strike action, Council last week requested that Unite the Union consider the necessity and/or duration planned strike action and avail of an opportunity to commence engagement through existing and agreed local structures and partnerships on all relevant issues.

Council furthermore reinforced its commitment to engage without prejudice in any discussions and/or negotiations in the pursuit of improvement to the terms and conditions of all of its employees.

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“The Unite the Union advised that it was not possible at that point to change its plans for this week’s industrial action but that it was keen to try and resolve the dispute and hopefully avoid any future industrial action, adding that it would be useful to meet as soon as reasonably practicable after this week’s strike. As such and following this week’s strike action it is the intention of Council to set up these meetings as soon as possible with all of the unions representing employees of Derry City and Strabane District Council to discuss those aspects of local government - employee pay and conditions - which can be considered at local Council level.”

The Council said it acknowledges that staff want to show their opposition to the national pay award increase and fully respects their right to take industrial action, adding that “Council in all such matters works in close consultation with Trades Unions through local agreed negotiating structures and values these mechanisms of engagement in developing a joint and common understanding of issues and in the exploration of resolutions to matters of employee concern”.