Extra £250 would end bin and leisure dispute in Mid Ulster district

Striking bin and leisure centre workers say they will go back to work if Mid Ulster District Council offers them an extra £250 in their one-off payment.

With the strike now in to its fourth week thousands of households are being hit by the dispute that may be extended for another month.

Members of the Unite union told the Mail this week that they were willing to go back to work if the council raised the £500 one-off payment to £750.

A union representative hit out at the council’s recent statement that its pay offer was ‘the most financially beneficially on offer from any council in Northern Ireland.’

Workers on the picket line in Magherafelt.

“This offer is not the best offer – it’s only the best for those on the top,” he said.

With council’s current proposed pay offer, bin lifters, street cleaners, gardeners, recycling attendants and leisure centre staff, who are all on Scale 3 and the lowest paid, would earn an extra £7.77 per week, before tax. This works out at an extra 21p per hour.

HGV drivers, recycling attendants and waste transfer loaders, who are on scale 4, would receive an extra £8.50 per week, before tax.

The union representative said: “What the public need to know is that for a bin man it is worth £7.77 before tax per week but for someone on £50,000 or £60,000, it’s worth £30 a week payrise. This is the sort of stuff they (council) aren’t telling people.

Mid Ulster District Council have mirrored the offer in Derry City and Strabane. Up in Derry they have capped the payrise whereas Mid Ulster is giving the payrise up to a senior level, so the fat cats are earning the money. If Derry and Strabane accept the offer they are at a better starting point than us because they are getting better paid than us anyway,” he continued.

“We are in a bad postion here as we are negotiating with people who are on £100,000 plus salaries so how can we make them understand what it’s like for someone getting £300 a week home with travelling costs to take out of that? They don’t understand.”

The workers say they have reluctantly agreed to one salary increment this year and one next year however they want the one-off payment increased from £500 to £750.

“That’s one hell of a compromise from our side, but unfortunately our chief executive has not responded positively,” continued the representative.

Strikers say they have been let down by local councillors who they say are “hiding away.”

They are keen to have the dispute resolved but are determined to get a fair wage for the work they do even if it means continuing the industrial action.

A spokesperson for Mid Ulster Council said: “The Council’s offer is, in fact, the most financially beneficial currently being proposed by any council here.

“It includes a £500 one-off ‘cost of living’ payment and a rise in pay scales over two years for all employees (equating to 4% approximately). All employees, as requested by the Trade Unions, will benefit from this aspect of the local offer. It is, therefore, incorrect to assert that the offer will only benefit those on higher scales which amounts to some 2% of our staff.”

The spokesperson continued: “The Council has also given a commitment to a review of pay scales as part of service review and transformation work. This is considered to be significantly more impactful for those on lower scales and to be deliverable in a more sustainable manner. It will specifically address the perceived difference in pay between Mid Ulster and some other councils.

“The Council has responded to the joint trade unions, welcoming the unions’ acceptance of the rise in pay scales and reiterating that we are prepared, as we have always been prepared, to engage on this one final outstanding aspect of the local offer (an increase in the one-off payment from £500 to £750). We continue to ask, in this context and in good faith, that the current industrial action be suspended.”

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