Unite members in Northern Ireland councils, the Education Authority, NI Housing Executive and schools have launched their first week of strike action to win improved pay. The strike will likely result in significant disruption to council services, housing executive maintenance and school transport.
Union members will be striking for improved pay at all eleven local councils, the Education Authority, the NI Housing Executive, North West Regional College, Belfast Metropolitan College, St Columb’s College, South Eastern Regional College, Lumen Christi College and the Northern Regional College. The strike follows an overwhelming vote to reject a pay offer from local government employers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland of just 1.75 percent for the year 2021-22. The pay offer would mean another real terms pay cut and comes after eleven years of pay freezes.
Unite is seeking localised settlements to deliver improved pay despite the other two signatory unions in the bargaining processes of the ‘Green Book’ NJC having agreed the 1.75% pay offer. The union is seeking locally-agreed improvements through raising pay grades, reduced working hours, more paid holidays and other benefits.
The pay of Council workers, Education workers and Housing Executive workers in Northern Ireland has stagnated over the last decade meaning real terms falls in their standards of living of 11 percent over the period. The NJC pay offer of a bare 1.75 percent increase is a real terms pay cut of more than seven percent when set against the 1.25 percent hike in national insurance and surging inflation (currently 7.8 percent).
Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham expressed her union’s support for its members on picket lines across Northern Ireland.
“I stand with and fully support all our Unite members working for local authorities, the NI Housing Executive, the Education Authority and schools who have taken to the picket lines across Northern Ireland today,” she said.
“You are right not to sit back and accept an insulting 1.75% pay offer while you are having to cope with rocketing inflation. It is a disgrace that workers are once again being asked to pick up the bill for the failings of politicians,” Graham added.
“You can count on my continued support in your fight for localised pay deals that secure real improvements to pay. Unite will be backing you all the way.”
By Donal O’Cofaigh