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Newry, Mourne and Down Council workers’ strike

3 December 2020

Council workers on the picket line

Council workers in Newry, Mourne and Down (NMD) took strike action on Thursday December 3rd, following an overwhelming vote for action by workers in Siptu, UNITE, GMB and Nipsa. The council merger which saw the creation of the super council has been used as an opportunity to attempt to lower pay and undermine conditions. Now, using the pandemic and a notional 'financial responsibility' as an excuse, the council management are attempting to press home their planned destruction of pay grading procedures and reduce wages to the lowest parameter of a pay scale which varies across the merged council areas. Refuse workers alone face losses of up to £2,500 per year. As a means of imposing these cuts a previously agreed objective job evaluation process has arbitrarily been dispensed with and a new one with no right of appeal and headed by an individual manager has been introduced. The new system ignores workers' contracts prior to the council amalgamation and the legal transfer of undertakings regulations.

Although conflict over grades has been ongoing this management escalation has been timed to take advantage of the shock caused by mass layoffs and has the intention of driving wages down across the board. These moves against workers who only a few months ago were being lauded as essential front-line staff, keeping society functioning, are a sign of things to come. Plans to make the working class pay for the huge cost of the pandemic are being put in place and, in the case of this dispute, are already under way.

Workers are already showing their willingness to resist these plans which will lead to pay-offs and immiseration. This exemplary action stands as a reminder that all workers will be subject to similar cost cutting measures and must fight back.

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