Up to 1,000 workers at Newry, Mourne and Down District Council are set to strike following a row about pay and conditions.
Four trade unions - Unite, GMB, NIPSA and SIPTU – said staff will strike in the run-up to Christmas after the council’s chief executive failed to deal with the workers’ concerns or meet directly with the union representatives.
A statement said: ‘Council workers are aware that COVID-19 has made 2020 a really hard year for the community in Newry, Mourne and Down. It is with regret that we are being forced to take this action in order to improve our pay and protect our terms and conditions.
’Although there will be limited action in December, our members will be escalating the dispute if the issues are not resolved, in January 2021. It is in the management’s hands to resolve this dispute.’
The council said it had been working with the trade union over a period of time, and its chief executive has attended a series of meetings with them.
A statement from the council said: 'Taking into account the impact of COVID-19, the council has been considering the implementation of a voluntary severance scheme which would offer a generous redundancy package well above statutory redundancy pay. Along with an enhanced redundancy payment, those employees aged over 55 but below normal retirement age will also receive their remaining pension benefits if they are accepted for voluntary redundancy.
'At the same time, the council has a responsibility to spend public money in the most responsible manner possible, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic when public finances are stretched, and the private sector is contracting and experiencing significant unemployment.'