Northern Ireland news

Coronavirus: Mid and East Antrim council furloughing 124 more staff

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council
Brendan Hughes

MID and East Antrim Borough Council plans to furlough a further 124 staff amid the coronavirus crisis.

The local authority has already had 128 agency staff furloughed, which is thought to be around half of its agency workforce.

It is the latest council to confirm more furloughing plans following confirmation that they can apply to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

READ MORE: Employers want furlough scheme extended to at least the end of September - report

Several councils have warned that a significant reduction in revenue streams as a result of the pandemic has affected their ability to pay wages.

CJRS aims to prevent redundancies by allowing employers to apply for a government grant to cover 80 per cent of the wages for staff who are placed on temporary leave, or 'furloughed'.

After some confusion, Stormont communities minister Deirdre Hargey this week confirmed that councils can apply to furlough non-essential workers under the UK-wide scheme.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council plans to furlough a further 124 staff amid the coronavirus crisis

A spokesman for Mid and East Antrim council said its staff are its "greatest asset".

"Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has not terminated the contracts of any casual, temporary or full-time staff and has made a commitment to fulfil the contracts of all agency and casual staff within the existing terms of their respective contracts," he said.

"As a result of the Covid-19 crisis we have furloughed 128 agency staff with the commitment that they will all return to complete their respective assignments, and we are moving to furlough a further 124 council employees across the organisation.

"Mid and East Antrim Borough Council remains committed to all staff during this period, and elected members and senior management continue to applaud the great work of all staff across council."

Earlier this week, it emerged that more than 200 employees at Fermanagh and Omagh District Council have been furloughed.

The council said a "significant reduction" in revenue streams from arts, tourism and leisure services has put pressure on its ability to pay staff wages.

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has delayed its furloughing application to consider whether to top-up the reduced wages of affected staff.

The council intends to furlough personnel across five departments.

It is considering if they should receive only the 80 per cent of their wages or whether the council will fund the gap to provide their full normal pay packets.

The next council meeting is scheduled for May 26. A special meeting could be convened if councillors do not otherwise reach a consensus beforehand.

Last week, Antrim and Newtownabbey council announced proposals to make 73 staff redundant.

A decision on 46 of the jobs has been deferred, but the remaining 27 agency workers are still being laid off.

The council said it has asked agencies to furlough them.

It defended how some of those facing redundancy had previously been classed by the council as 'key workers'.

A spokeswoman said that "we are now in a different situation and face an unprecedented financial challenge".

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