Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon strike: DUP voices concern on deal while majority of parties welcome offer

Strike action is suspended on the sixth week following a majority of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council members voting for a proposed pay offer which is hoped will end the stalemate.

The vote, at a late night council meeting in Craigavon on Tuesday evening, was a majority vote – one which was opposed by the DUP, the largest party on ABC Council.

The deal was brokered between unions, GMB, Unite and NIPSA, and council management with the help of the Labour Relations Agency.

In a statement the DUP voiced concerns about the offer saying it had ‘repeatedly asked for detail’ on how it will be funded.

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What the DUP said

The level of dumping outside the Fairgreen Craigavon Amenity Site in Portadown has been shown via drone footage taken by local man Paul Cranston of Blackbox Aerial Photography.

In a statement the party said: "The foundation of any deal from any responsible Council has to be affordability and a clear plan of how the proposed agreements can be funded. Our Group has repeatedly asked for the detail around how the proposal tabled on Tuesday evening can be funded - on behalf of every ratepayer in the Borough we must see a costed and detailed plan of how the millions of pounds can be raised and provided for, year on year, without financially overburdening households especially in the midst of a cost of living crisis. This detail was not forthcoming. When we asked for the estimated impact on the rates, officers advised that a double digit rates increase was likely. This is deeply concerning for our Party.

"There has been no clarity from Council officials on how we fund this deal and we have no details on what redundancies, service reductions, facility closures will be required. It appears that this is a ‘take it as it comes’ approach. This is not a firm footing from which to move forward especially in this era of massively increased costs for all council operated services. Whilst of course our council staff are highly valued, resources are already stretched.

"There is a very concerning and growing discontent simmering in the Borough on this issue and we are concerned by the long term impacts of this strike action. We make no excuse for standing up for ratepayers.

"To agree a deal in these circumstances, that does not deliver affordability for our Borough’s residents is not a firm footing for moving forward. As a Party we have always advocated a fair deal for both the lowest paid workers and the rate payer this remains our position. Indeed, our party have been the only party concerned about the appalling situation that has left our staff with different terms and conditions with our members vocal on the disgraceful delay in finalising the new arrangements under RPA. We are committed to ensuring this is resolved immediately. We must now see action on harmonisation of terms and conditions without delay and Senior Management must take full responsibility for ensuring this stain on our Council is rectified.”

What Sinn Féin said

Sinn Féin Councillor Liam Mackle said: “We are delighted that, at the council meeting, a majority of councillors supported this deal which will hopefully bring an end to industrial action.

“The past six weeks have been very difficult for everyone in the Borough. We now need to concentrate on recovery.

“Throughout this period the Sinn Féin group have been resolutely focused on getting an agreement that is fair to our valued staff and ratepayers. We believe the deal agreed tonight does just that.

“It targets our lowest paid staff whilst also acknowledging and rewarding all our staff.

“We must now to put our shoulders to the wheel and refocus our minds on the harsh winter ahead and how we, as a council, can support our workers and families."

What the Ulster Unionist Party said

The Ulster Unionist Party said: “Our party group has spent the last six weeks working hard in the background passing on the concerns of our rate payers regarding local facilities, speaking to union reps and management to see where any compromise could be made and engaging with rate payers to gauge public feeling on any renewed offer.

"At all times we have been very aware that we must be responsible with the public purse and the impact any pay rise will have on either the level of service we offer, or a mitigating rate rise to meet the financial pressure.

"Above everything, we felt we had to keep the care of our staff in mind. It is they who deliver our services and without whom we would not function.

"A pay deal that reflects their skills and meets the current financial pressures all households are now facing is needed and deserved. We believe that has been reached.

"We would like to thank the Council officer team involved with brokering this compromise deal in what has been very difficult circumstances.

"We’re extremely proud of our Borough however, we understand these past weeks has not been good for anyone. The impact has been huge on all our residents, our businesses, and our growing tourism sector.

"Now is the time to focus on recovery and rebuilding working relationships both inside and outside of council and make our Borough the best it can be.”

What the SDLP said

SDLP Cllr Ciaran Toman said his party is ‘delighted that a settlement has been agreed’ and ‘will hopefully bring an end to industrial action’.

"The deal agreed rewards all staff with a payment in facing the cost-of-living crisis and it also targets the lowest paid staff in Council with a fair wage.

"The past six weeks have hugely frustrating, and we certainly will have a tough recovery ahead to have everything back to normal. But lessons must also be learned, the trust between Council, Councillors and Ratepayers have been broken. The lack of clarity to the Ratepayer over this period has been the main reason that trust has been broken. It falls short of the standard of open and transparent governance citizens in this Borough rightly expect.

"Further information is to be released on the resumption of services but it's important that we refocus our minds to the clean-up operation and to build that trust up.”

What Alliance Party said

Alliance Party group leader Councillor Peter Lavery said: “Alliance welcomes this long overdue settlement, which we believe represents a fair deal for staff and protects public services.

“However, Alliance is firmly of the view that this deal could, and should, have been reached weeks ago. It has been hugely frustrating that while solutions existed, some political parties instead choose to needlessly prolong the industrial dispute.

“The past six weeks have been a disaster for ratepayers, our staff, and for our borough. The focus must now urgently turn to the clean-up operation and recovery of essential services, and key lessons must be learned by Council management.”