Unite calls on employers to move on pay to avert disruption from strike action set to commence next Monday [21 March].

Industrial action set to proceed at nineteen NJC employers after large majorities of Unite members vote for strike action.

Unite the union has today (Monday) given notice of pending strike action for a pay increase by its members at all eleven local councils, the Education Authority, the NI Housing Executive, North West Regional College, Belfast Metropolitan College, St Columb’s College, South Eastern Regional College, Lumen Christi College and the Northern Regional College.

The strike action occurs after members rejected a pay offer from local government employers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland of just 1.75 percent for the year 2021-22. The pay offer would mean another real terms pay cut and comes after eleven years of pay freezes.

The union is seeking localised settlements to deliver improved pay despite the other two signatory unions in the bargaining processes of the ‘Green Book’ NJC having agreed the 1.75% pay offer. Unite is seeking locally-agreed improvements through raising pay grades, reduced working hours, more paid holidays and other benefits.

Council workers, education workers and Housing Executive workers in Northern Ireland have watched their pay stagnate over the last decade meaning real terms falls in their standards of living of 11 percent over the period and this is set to get worse. The NJC pay offer of a bare 1.75 percent increase is actually a real terms pay cut of more than seven percent set against a 1.25 percent hike in national insurance and surging inflation (currently 7.8 percent).

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham commended her members in local authorities in Northern Ireland on their determination to win a cost of living pay increase, saying:

“I want to congratulate my members working in local authorities in Northern Ireland for the strength of their ballot for strike action; they have the full backing of my union in their strike action. 

“The employers must now respond by tabling a pay deal in line with our members’ expectations and to meet punishing living costs.  Unite is determined to see real improvements won by local authority workers in Northern Ireland.”

Lead Regional Officer for local authorities, Gareth Scott, called on management to negotiate and highlighted the strength of feeling among his members.   

“These ballots confirm the determination of Unite members in local authorities to secure a decent cost of living increase. The majorities in favour of strike action in councils, the education authority and the housing executive were exceptional; our members are calling time on real terms pay cuts.

 “Management must now engage with us to identify how they can address our members’ pay expectations within the NJC framework so as to avoid what is likely to be a disruptive dispute affecting council services, school transport and housing executive maintenance.”

The picket lines will be going up on Monday morning for the first week of strike action by Unite members.


Note for editors: Ballot results in the councils and larger employers were as follows, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council 96 percent; Ards and North Down Borough Council 97 percent; Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council 96 percent; Belfast City Council 92 percent; Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council 82 percent; Derry City & Strabane District Council 94 percent; Fermanagh and Omagh District Council 94 percent; Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council 94 percent; Mid and East-Antrim Borough Council 84 percent; Mid-Ulster District Council 93 percent; Newry, Mourne and Down District Council 95 percent; Education Authority 94 percent; NI Housing Executive 94 percent.

For further information or an interview contact Unite Regional Officers: Gareth Scott (Causeway Coast & Glens, Derry City & Strabane, Fermanagh & Omagh, Mid-Ulster, North West Regional College, St Columb’s College, Lumen Christi), tel. 07764 292005; Kieran Ellison (Antrim & Newtownabbey, Belfast City, Lisburn & Castlereagh, Mid & East Antrim, Newry, Mourne & Down, Education Authority, South East Regional College, Belfast Met), tel. 07495 672589; Joanne McWilliams (Antrim & North Down), tel. 07879 692024; Brenda Stephenson (Armagh, Banbridge & Craigavon), tel. 07815 706102; George Brash (Northern Regional College), tel. 07771 818636; Michael Keenan (NI Housing Executive), tel. 07795 195687; or Donal O’Cofaigh, Unite Campaigns, Communications & Press (NI), tel. 07810 157926.