'Double digit rates increase likely' after strike deal reached: DUP

'Double digit rates increase' likely after strike deal reached: DUP
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Tuesday 20 September 2022 22:58

Ratepayers can expect a “double digit” rates increase after a deal was reached to end the industrial dispute between trade unions and ABC Council.

Last night the majority of councillors backed the approval of a conciliation agreement brokered by the Labour Relations Agency (LRA), between management and the Joint Trade Unions (JTUS). 

Following a vote, elected members approved the proposal for a bespoke local pay offer to staff, the council said.

The deal which will bring the industrial action to an end will cost the council annually in the region of £1.5m, with an additional £1.2m taken from Council reserves to fund the one-off cost of living payments. Payments relating to spinal points will be backdated to April 2022.

Following the meeting the DUP, who it is understood did not back the deal, issued a statement outlining their position.

“Throughout this process our Party has given the necessary and appropriate time and space for Council officials to negotiate with the Unions,” they said.

“Unlike other parties we have avoided public pronouncements that would be detrimental to negotiations.

“The foundation of any deal from any responsible Council has to be affordability and a clear plan of how the proposed agreements can be funded.

“Our group has repeatedly asked for the detail around how the proposal tabled on Tuesday evening can be funded - on behalf of every ratepayer in the Borough we must see a costed and detailed plan of how the millions of pounds can be raised and provided for, year on year, without financially overburdening households especially in the midst of a cost of living crisis. This detail was not forthcoming.

“When we asked for the estimated impact on the rates, officers advised that a double digit rates increase was likely, this is deeply concerning for our Party.”

The party grouping said that there had been “no clarity” from Council officials on how the deal would be funded, or on what redundancies, service reductions or facility closures may be required.

“It appears that this is a ‘take it as it comes’ approach,” the statement continued.

“This is not a firm footing from which to move forward, especially in this era of massively increased costs for all council operated services. Whilst of course our council staff are highly valued, resources are already stretched.

“There is a very concerning and growing discontent simmering in the Borough on this issue and we are concerned by the long term impacts of this strike action.”

The statement added that the DUP “make no excuse for standing up for ratepayers”.

It continued: “To agree a deal in these circumstances, that does not deliver affordability for our Borough’s residents is not a firm footing for moving forward.

“As a Party we have always advocated a fair deal for both the lowest paid workers and the ratepayer - this remains our position.

“Indeed, our party have been the only party concerned about the appalling situation that has left our staff with different terms and conditions with our members vocal on the disgraceful delay in finalising the new arrangements under RPA. We are committed to ensuring this is resolved immediately.

“We must now see action on harmonisation of terms and conditions without delay and Senior Management must take full responsibility for ensuring this stain on our Council is rectified.”

Meanwhile the Ulster Unionist Party grouping on the council said that they believe that a fair deal has been reached.

"Our party group has spent the last six weeks working hard in the background passing on the concerns of our rate payers regarding local facilities, speaking to union reps and management to see where any compromise could be made and engaging with rate payers to gauge public feeling on any renewed offer," they said.

"At all times we have been very aware that we must be responsible with the public purse and the impact any pay rise will have on either the level of service we offer, or a mitigating rate rise to meet the financial pressure. 

"Above everything, we felt we had to keep the care of our staff in mind. It is they who deliver our services and without whom we would not function. 

"A pay deal that reflects their skills and meets the current financial pressures all households are now facing is needed and deserved. 

"We believe that has been reached. 

"We would like to thank the Council officer team involved with brokering this compromise deal in what has been very difficult circumstances. 

"We're extremely proud of our Borough however, we understand these past weeks has not been good for anyone. The impact has been huge on all our residents, our businesses, and our growing tourism sector. 

"Now is the time to focus on recovery and rebuilding working relationships both inside and outside of council and make our Borough the best it can be."

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