Northern Ireland news

Housing Executive workers begin industrial action in pay dispute

Trade union Unite said approximately 300 of its members were taking part in the action
Jonathan McCambridge, PA

Maintenance workers at the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) have begun a four-week strike in a row over pay.

Trade union Unite said approximately 300 of its members were taking part in the action.

NIHE said it envisaged the strike directly impacting maintenance services in Craigavon, Coleraine and north and west Belfast and added that only emergency repairs would be carried out in these areas for the duration of the industrial action.

The union said its members were demanding cash payments alongside a consolidated two pay point increase above the national pay offer of 1.75%.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Retail price inflation is already above 12% and is widely forecast to hit 18% by the end of the year.

“In such a cost-of-living crisis, workers need a decent pay increase to protect themselves and their families.

“The Northern Ireland Housing Executive workers can count on the full support of my union as they fight to win a decent pay increase.”

Regional officer for Unite, Michael Keenan, added: “We are warning that bosses are bringing about a strike that will have potentially severe impact on the services offered by the Housing Executive to tenants.

“The blame for this rests entirely with the Housing Executive which has failed to seriously attempt to resolve this dispute.”

A spokesperson for the Housing Executive said: “Unite has notified us of further planned industrial action from September 5 to October 3.

“This is part of an ongoing series of strikes by Unite relating to the 2021/22 pay award.

“Based on previous strikes, we envisage the strike action will directly impact our response maintenance services in three areas: Craigavon, Coleraine and north and west Belfast.

“During this period, we will carry out emergency only repairs within these areas.

“We will contact tenants directly about postponements of scheduled repair works and tenants can continue to report repairs as normal through our usual channels.

“We’ll also monitor the impact on tenants on a daily basis as the strike action continues.

“Our pay is subject to national collective bargaining arrangements.”

The spokesperson added: “The pay award of 2021/22 for all Housing Executive staff was collectively agreed at a national level and the pay increases have already been implemented.

“In addition to the national pay negotiations, a local claim was submitted by Nipsa and Unite in June and these discussions are on-going.

“We understand the impact of the rise in the cost of living and how it is affecting our colleagues.

“This is being considered at present through the 2022/23 national pay negotiations.

“A national pay offer was made on July 25 which includes £1,925 for all employees (providing higher pay increases (10.5%) for the lowest paid employees).

“We await the outcome of the national consultations on this offer and we will implement any agreement reached as quickly as possible.”

The latest strike comes as industrial action which had been affecting bin collections in the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council area continues.

The strike began on August 15 and it involves more than 1,000 council workers who are protesting over their pay and conditions.

It is being staged by members of the GMB, Unite and Nipsa trade unions.

The action was initially due to last for four weeks but last week council said it will now continue past September 11.

Northern Ireland news