By Rebecca McGirr
Two weeks of strike action commenced on Monday, beginning with council staff across Fermanagh and the rest of the province striking on the picket lines.
Bin collections, maintenance of Housing Executive properties and education services are expected to be affected.
Education workers joined council staff yesterday after the union Unite criticised claims by local authorities that their “hands are tied,” when it came to giving employees a pay increase.
The union’s regional officer, Gareth Scott, said that employees have been offered a rise of 1.75%, but Unite wants to negotiate a 10% pay increase, given that UK inflation has climbed to 7% – the highest rate it has been in 30 years.
The EA said it had asked Unite for special school staff and bus drivers to be exempted from the strike action, but the union refused.
“We firmly believe these requests to be reasonable and valid and we remain unclear about the basis for them to be rejected by Unite given the impact on some of the most vulnerable children,” the authority added.
It also said that “Local Government organisations, including EA, do not have the power or authority to renegotiate for Northern Ireland”, adding: “EA will however continue to engage collectively with all of our recognised trade unions on other separate local issues impacting on pay terms and conditions.”
The union has disputed this statement, and said that “Despite Education Authority’s claims its hands are tied, it does have the power to make education workers an increase that betters the proposed 1.75%.”
The EA also said: “We welcome the news that Translink management and unions have agreed to defer planned strike action which will allow pupils to access their normal school transport on Ulsterbus and Metro from Monday April 25.
Unfortunately, disruption is still anticipated to some EA services as a result of the strike action being taken by Unite the union.”
“Unite made this call after a revised offer from Translink saw bus drivers deferring their strike action. However, the absence of any potential solution from EA management has left education workers including school bus drivers with no alternative but to proceed with planned strike action,” said a union spokesperson.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham challenged the EA employers and stated, “The employers need to get back to the table with an acceptable pay offer or strike action will continue because Unite is determined to end the poverty pay which has caused the staffing crisis gripping school services.”
The strike will take place from Tuesday, April 26 to Sunday, May 1 and from Tuesday, May 3 to Sunday, May 8.
To read more.. Subscribe to current edition