ABC Council has expressed its “disappointment” at the breakdown of pay negotiations which will see strike action now go ahead.
Earlier this afternoon we reported that a strike at Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council will get underway from Monday, August 15 after pay talks collapsed today (Wednesday).
In a joint statement issued on behalf of all three trade unions – GMB, NIPSA and UNITE – workforce representatives said council management had failed to address their members’ legitimate concerns.
They said strike action and action short of strike would take place over four weeks.
It had been hoped this latest set of talks, which had been arranged after the unions agreed to defer strike action, would resolve the issues.
However, today’s statement said management came to the talks at the Labour Relations Agency “with no improved offers and mere promises of addressing harmonising issues”.
They added: “We have asked management to address the serious and real cost of living crisis being faced by our members. We sought and proposed reasonable and varied solutions.
“This included incremental progression for all grades of staff and one-off payments to alleviate the immediate hardship staff are facing.
“Other councils and the private sector are offering these payments and solutions yet the council, rich in reserves and capital, are leaving their staff to suffer.”
They added: “We are asking for incremental progression that will cost the council a total £800,000 for 1,400 staff this year, a two per cent increase to the overall pay bill.
“The CEO of this council is on a remuneration package of £152,363 as a result of his recently awarded 4.6 per cent pay rise. His executive management team consisting of four individuals are on a combined package of £440,000.
“We then have approximately 10 heads of service on a combined package of £900,000. These individuals are taking almost double the money out of this council than what we asking for the other 1,385.”
The statement also claimed the chief executive had “misinformed” his staff and union members that the unions turned down an offer of £3,000 per head last week, and challenged management “to put this definitive offer in writing without any further delay”.
It added: “The dispute also centres over how pay differences and disparities in terms and conditions inherited from legacy councils more than five years ago will be harmonised.
“Due to management delay in engaging with us on this issue, ABC District Council is now the last remaining council to resolve it. The point in contention is that for those workers whose pay grades are re-evaluated upwards, they will lose all pay progression accrued and will start at the bottom of the new grades.
“This is not acceptable to our members – it is a pay equality issue. While senior management have dragged their heels in dealing with pay harmonisation for lower paid workers, they agreed and have benefitted from their own regrading years ago.”
The council has now made a brief statement in response to today’s development.
A spokesperson said: “Council is disappointed that despite providing a further enhanced offer of an organisational wide pay and grading review, reinforcing commitment to addressing issues of assimilating staff to new structures, and an offer of £1,400 to all staff, spread across two £700 payments in 2022/23, equating to a £2.3 million additional payment to staff; on top of a national pay award for £1,925 per year going forward for all staff, that this has been rejected by the Trade Unions.”