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Unions engaging to coordinate strike action across entire civil service in NI

Unite the Union flag.
Unite the Union flag.

 

Unite and the GMB have confirmed that in separate ballots of their members employed in the industrial civil service, workers [which includes Roads Service, Rivers Agency, Forest Service and Strangford Ferry] have voted overwhelmingly to take strike action in pursuit of a cost of living pay increase.


In Unite the vote for strike action was passed by 91 percent while in GMB the vote for strike action was 77 percent.

 


Both trade unions will now engage with NIPSA which represents non-industrial civil servants, and which announced its own successful strike ballot last week, with a view to taking coordinated strike action across the entire civil service in Northern Ireland. 

 

Workers have been offered a pay increase of a bare £552 for the 2022-2023 tax year.


Unite stages for industrial civil service workers this means a nominal pay increase of between 1.65 percent and 2.3 percent for a period over which inflation spiked at more than 14 percent under the retail price index (the measure of inflation most closely approximating the rise in prices experienced by workers). The current pay offer therefore represents a real terms pay cut of approximately to 12 percent for most workers.

 


Gareth Scott, lead Unite Regional Officer for industrial civil service workers called on the employers to respond to the ballot results by making an improved pay offer.

 

“This ballot result is a powerful mandate for strike action. We now need to see movement from the Department for Infrastructure to address our members’ pay claim.

 

“It is simply unacceptable that Road service, Rivers Agency, Forest Service and Strangford Ferry workers – who are already among the lowest paid workers in the civil service – are expected to accept a 12 percent real-terms pay cut. Our members are determined to defend themselves and to that end Unite and GMB will be coordinating with NIPSA to maximise the impact of our industrial action.”

 


This industrial dispute centres on the demand for a fair pay increase but occurs against a backdrop of a pre-existing industrial action involving a continuous work-to-rule by Roads Service workers in both Unite and GMB. The earlier dispute centres on the workers’ demand for a productivity payment to be integrated into their pay grades removing a mechanism which is outdated, unfair and can be used by managers to victimise individuals.

 

Alan Perry, Regional Organiser for GMB challenged the employers on their attempts to blame workers for the dispute in the media:

 

“Strike action is always a last resort for any worker but management intransigence has left our members with no alternative but to go to the gate. The pay increase currently offered is nothing short of an insult.

 


“The situation is not made any easier by Roads Service management going on radio seeking to shift the blame onto workers. The way to resolve all these disputes is for management to sit down with the trade unions and make an offer which addresses our members’ concerns. Management have a responsibility to the travelling public; they must act to avoid unnecessary risk and disruption.”

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