Northern Ireland news

Fire fighters, health workers to be balloted on strike action over pay

Striking Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council workers
John Breslin

FIREFIGHTERS and health service workers are to be balloted on strike action, joining council and housing maintenance employees either out on the picket line or being canvassed by their unions.

More than 32,000 members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) across Britain and Northern Ireland will be balloted within the next five weeks.

NIPSA is preparing to ballot its members employed across the health service ahead of possible industrial action. This follows ballots of other health service workers, members of GMB and the Royal College of Nursing.

Council workers in Lisburn & Castlereagh, many of them refuse collectors,went on strike yesterday amid claims management has failed to place on the table anything above an already rejected national pay offer. It will continue until there is agreement, Unite the Union said.

A now more than three-week strike in Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough is continuing as the unions in the area have rejected the council proposal of a lump sum above the National Joint Council (NJC) pay offer of £1,925 for every employee.

The strike is having an impact with rubbish spilling on to the streets and fly tipping on the rise, while it emerged this week Mid Ulster Youth League matches are suspended because of lack of pitches due to the action.

Members of three unions employed by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council are also being balloted, joining Unite workers already poised to take strike action.

But industrial action formally ended on Monday in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area after workers voted with a 63 percent majority to accept a pay offer recommended by their unions.

The pay deal includes a one-off payment of £500 and upping every worker by two pay points, an increase of approximately five percent on top of the national pay offer of £1,925 to each worker.

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This is in the line with what the unions are looking for across the council areas.

Approximately 400 Northern Ireland Housing Executive workers are also on strike over claims they are among the lowest paid of any in the public sector.

Firefighters and control staff will be balloted after a pay offer of two per cent, which their union claims management has failed to improve since the end of June.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, said: "Taking strike action is always a last resort. But our employers are increasingly leaving us with no choice. And there is huge anger among firefighters at falling pay.

"Firefighters must be paid fairly: there is absolutely no question when it comes to this. It is the responsibility of fire service employers to provide decent pay offers and that has not happened."

NIPSA Official Terry Thomas said: “NIPSA did not take this decision lightly, we believe that the health service cannot be allowed to continue exploiting NIPSA members across the health and social care system by underpaying and undervaluing their work."

About 200 members of the Unite union working for Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council went on strike on Monday. Unite regional officer Kieran Ellison said bin collections, leisure centres and environmental health services would be affected.

"The strike will be continuous until the council comes forward with an offer," Mr Ellison said, adding management has failed to even present an offer above the national one.

The council said the national pay offer is with the trade unions for consideration.

“The council is currently briefing all political parties on the impact of any proposal in addition to costs we are already facing," a spokesperson said .

"This is to ensure that any decisions are made on the basis of what is feasible and sustainable for staff, services and the ratepayer."

Northern Ireland news