“Shocked” trade unions engaged in a prolonged council employment dispute have reacted to “revelations” that its local authority plans to make £11.6m of savings in the coming year.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council (NMDDC) has been identified in a BBC Shared Data Unit survey, as making the 2nd highest (17.2%) savings in the UK of its net budget (£67.4m) for 2023/24, as reported by the Local Democracy Service.
Joint Trade Union Side (JTUS) GMB, NIPSA, UNITE and SIPTU have taken forms of industrial action from April, with Labour Relations Agency (LRA) facilitated talks failing to find a resolution over pay and job evaluation practices.
A JTUS spokesperson said: “Recent press revelations that NMDDC intends to save £11.6m in this financial year must be questioned by trade unions and ratepayers, unions are shocked at the level of budget savings expected from the council.
“The trade union side will now be asking council management to give our members and the ratepayers a detailed rationale and business case as to how they intend to make these savings. How can the savings can be made without staffing and service cuts ?
“Just as important we need to ask why these savings need to made, we know they have reserves, is this to keep more money for a rainy day?
“This council needs to look outside their window. There is a cost of living storm happening right now. This is not a time to hoard, this is a time to show leadership and help their staff and ratepayers.
“This is not a time to cut wages and services it is a time provide a decent wage structure and properly funded services for the whole community.”
NMDDC had avoided initial staff industrial action late last year (November 2022)following a pledge on wages ahead of setting domestice rates.
However, the JTUS has since called for a vote of no confidence in council CEO Marie Ward following what they say is continuing unfair job evaluation practices.
The JTUS spokesperson added: “The council implies that the current industrial dispute happening in the council relates to wages and they therefore need to keep monies over to pay for any potential outcome.
“This is misleading, our dispute is about protecting our members terms and conditions, our dispute is about stopping management cutting the pay of the lowest paid workers in the council by almost three thousand pounds a year.
“Our dispute is also about making management honour previous commitments made, it requires no extra money.”