Union officials have reiterated their assertion that local authorities have the power to resolve the ongoing strike action which is shortly due to enter its second week.
Last week, ABC Council chief executive Roger Wilson denied that it was in its gift to negotiate pay claims and by doing so bring about an end to the unprecedented industrial action.
Ahead of the strike kicking off on Tuesday, Unite the Union had said local agreements could be put in place.
Already today (Sunday), Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said staff who had been due to strike had agreed to “suspend” their action and added: “Our services will therefore run as normal from Tuesday, and we will continue to engage with our union colleagues.”
Here in the ABC Council area there has been no such change.
Speaking at a special meeting of the council during the week – called to discuss the impact of Unite the Union’s industrial action on its services – Mr Wilson said no requests or demands had been put to him which could bring an end to the dispute.
Now, as Unite members in councils, education and housing across Northern Ireland continue strike action and prepare for a second week of action beyond the Bank Holiday, the union has hit out at the “misinformation from the employers”.
Said a spokesperson: “The workers are on strike in pursuit of a pay increase to recover earnings lost through over a decade of attacks on wages and to help combat the harm to earnings caused by surging inflation.
“The union is challenging the National Joint-Council (NJC) employers to stop the disinformation and own up to the powers that they do have to end the dispute by improving workers’ pay.
“Unite says that, despite their constant claims to the contrary, the employers can develop local formulas that would allow an offer above the present 1.75 per cent, which is way below the current real rate of inflation (RPI) of nine per cent.
“Most other pay and conditions – such as overtime and public holidays – can be set locally giving scope for councils to move.”
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham called out the employers.
She added: “Nobody wants to hear about what the NCJ can’t do – what we do need to hear about is how they will use the powers that they do have to deliver fair pay.
“An offer of 1.75 percent is not a pay increase – it’s a pay cut and is plainly unacceptable to this union. Unite members need to see a genuine improvement to their pay and conditions. These employers can and must now deliver that.”
Gareth Scott, Unite regional officer with lead responsibility for councils, said: “Unite is determined to improve our members’ pay and conditions. They’ve been under-paid and under-valued by their employers for too long and this has to stop.
“Instead of misinforming the public about what they can and cannot do, the employers would be better served entering meaningful negotiations to end this dispute by providing Unite’s members a genuine improvement to pay.”
According to Unite, the employers can adopt local agreements on pay and conditions for holidays; overtime rates; evening work; night work; Saturday or Sunday working; working on public holidays; shift work; unsocial hours; standby duty; recall to work (including travel time); and free and rest day working.
Unite insists that movement on any combination of these aspects could open the door to resolve this dispute.