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Services ‘run as normal’ after Unite suspends Mid and East Antrim Council action

Unite the Union has confirmed that industrial action among members in Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has been suspended.

As a result, Mid and East Antrim Council has said that services will “run as normal” from Tuesday, May 3 and the local authority will “continue to engage with our union colleagues”.

The council has also stated that “service priority now is to ensure normal collections resume as quickly as possible”.

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The council said online:  “Mop-up services will not be available for residents following the strike action. Unfortunately due to the level disruption, we cannot facilitate a mop-up collection at this time; as the priority is to ensure normal service resumes as quickly as possible.”

Bin collections have been disrupted

Unite Regional Officer Kieran Ellison commented: “Unite continue to have discussions with management at a number of councils, including some who have wrote to Unite declaring a willingness and an openness to engage in meaningful dialogue on how they can address our members’ pay issues. Unite have agreed to suspend our action in light of this open approach from management at those employers.

“By contrast, the Education Authority have yet to submit a business case proposal which would address our members’ pay issues to the Department of Education.

“Unfortunately in the absence of any genuine process to enable meaningful negotiation, Unite are unable to adopt a similar approach in the case of the education workers’ strike. Should the Department of Education receive and respond positively to that business case in a timely manner, we would reconsider our position in regard to suspension.”

The Education Authority (EA) has indicated that some EA services continue to face disruption this week,  particularly school transport and some Special Schools.

In a statement online, the EA says: “Whilst the EA fully respects the right of staff to take industrial action, we also very much recognise the significant impact any reduction or change to learning patterns can have on children and young people, particularly those with special educational needs. We are working very hard to implement a range of contingency measures to minimise disruption as much as possible during this time.

“To date the measures put in place have enabled us to ensure that the vast majority of transport and school meal services continued to operate. We have a dedicated team who are in daily contact with Special School principals to identify emerging issues and to explore every possibility to ensure the safe return of as many pupils as possible where they are learning remotely.

“We have asked Unite to reconsider our valid and reasonable requests for exemptions for staff supporting Special School services which would help to protect our most vulnerable children.

“The ongoing industrial action by Unite the Union relates to the 2021/22 NJC pay award which EA does not have the power or authority to renegotiate. This is because the NJC pay is negotiated and agreed nationally under agreed collective bargaining arrangements that includes three trade unions, including Unite. local government organisations, including EA, then implement the pay award that is agreed.

“The 2021/22 NJC pay award of 1.75% has been agreed in line with these collective arrangements and EA is now processing the new rate of pay to staff. EA is therefore unable to renegotiate the pay award for 2021/22.

“However, national negotiations for the 2022/23 Pay Award are about to begin and this is an opportunity to influence the future pay award and make a real difference. We would therefore encourage Unite to actively engage in these negotiations in a constructive and meaningful way.

“We very much value all our staff and are committed to advocating for a fair pay offer in the 2022/3 national NJC negotiations to reflect the rising prices and pressures workers and families are facing during these very challenging times.”

Unite has hit out at what it has described as “misinformation from the employers.” and 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,

Antrim and Newtownabbey is anticipating another week of disruption to services. From Tuesday 3 until Sunday 8 May, Antrim Forum will be closed as a result of strike action.

At Sixmile and Valley Leisure Centres, opening hours will be reduced to 9am until 8pm, from May 3until May 6, with normal opening for both centres on Saturday and Sunday. Swimming pools and spas will be closed and there will be no swimming lessons.

It is anticipated that Allen Park, Ballyearl Arts and Leisure Centre and Crumlin Leisure Centre will not be impacted by the industrial action and will operate as normal.

Bin collections, household recycling centres and other services are expected to operate as normal.

The Housing Executive says that it is expecting some disruption to its repairs service again this week when emergency only repairs will be in operation. Areas affected may include Craigavon, Coleraine and North and West Belfast.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

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