Disruption to council and school services as Unite workers strike over pay

·3-min read
Strike action by Unite trade union has disrupted council services across Northern Ireland (Liam McBurney/PA) (PA Wire)
Strike action by Unite trade union has disrupted council services across Northern Ireland (Liam McBurney/PA) (PA Wire)

Up to two weeks of strike action by council and Housing Executive workers began on Monday in Northern Ireland.

Unite members in local councils across Northern Ireland began their strike on Monday, with disruption predicted to council and Housing Executive services over the next two weeks.

Unite is among the largest public sector trade unions.

Workers are striking as part of a dispute over a local government pay offer of 1.75%, which Unite has branded a “real terms pay cut” amid the rising cost of living and surging inflation.

Unite workers in the Education Authority are also set to go on strike from Tuesday April 26, with special schools and some school transport set to be hit by disruption.

Kieran Molloy, a Unite shop steward, was at a picket line in Belfast on Monday.

He told PA news agency: “We are on strike because we have rejected the insulting 1.75% offer made by the employers last year.

“We are also in dispute with our local employers, local authorities and other employers.

“We are hoping to have the other unions join with us locally and collectively to that we can negotiate with the employers locally.”

Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite, said: “The offer of 1.75% is completely unacceptable – it’s a huge wage cut.

“All workers have a right to expect pay to keep pace with inflationary pressures and it’s appalling that public sector workers face a choice of heating or eating.”

The strike will initially hit services in the Housing Executive and across nine councils, as well as in three further education colleges across Northern Ireland.

It is set to last from April 25 to May 1 and then from May 3 to May 8.

Unite members working for the Education Authority will also go on strike from April 26 to May 1 and then from May 3 to May 8.

In a statement, Belfast City Council predicted “some disruption” to council services over the next two weeks.

It confirmed that some public toilets and playgrounds will be closed by the strike.

“This regional action is impacting on local government services across Northern Ireland, as well as in England and Wales.

“The majority of our services are expected to operate as normal, or with minimal disruption, but it is likely the strike will have an impact on some waste collection and street cleaning routes, as well as other frontline services and council venues.”

Derry City and Strabane District Council also said that the strike would have a “considerable impact” on services.

“Council fully respects the right of staff to take industrial action,” the council said in a statement.

“As a result of the strike action council is experiencing considerable disruption to a number of services such as refuse collection, street cleansing, recycling centres and a number of other services.

“The level of impact is variable across all services.”

The council said that street cleaning services were “severely impacted”, while a considerable number of recycling centres have also been closed.

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