Belfast City Council: More than 1,000 workers threaten to strike over wages and working conditions

More than 1,000 Belfast City Council workers could go on strike over wages and working conditions in the coming weeks.

Negotiations between the council and unions are ongoing, but sources say a strike is “not out of the question.”

Belfast City is Northern Ireland’s largest council, employing approximately 2,500 people.

It is heavily unionized with staff represented by Unite, SIPTU, Nipsa and GMB.

From late April to early May, workers went on strike over wages and working conditions, which led to interruptions in a number of services. There was also a council strike in March.

Before the strike earlier this year, the council said that strike venues could be closed at certain times and services stopped, which could happen again if another strike starts.

These include City Hall, Belfast Zoo, community centres, play centres, bowling alleys, parks and public toilets. Services affected included pest control, noise control and dog breeders.

One union source, who asked not to be named, said negotiations would continue, but they would not “develop into a stalemate” and the strike was “under consideration.”

“This is a constant problem not only in Belfast, but in all our councils,” they said.

“We take temperatures, look at what our colleagues are doing elsewhere, and will not hesitate to support our workers if they decide to go on strike, which they are entitled to.

“The deal has not been agreed. Strikes are definitely on the table, and with the cost of living rising and inflation skyrocketing, workers deserve decent wages.”

The council official added: “No one wants to strike, but we’ve been here before and if we have to, we’ll do it.”

If the strike continues, it will affect all municipal services, including garbage collection and street cleaning.

The move is not unexpected as the unions recently warned of a strike in the council for all of Northern Ireland.

It was confirmed last month that municipal workers in Derry City and Straban would go on strike starting Aug. 10, and Unite said it was “likely to be followed by similar actions in other local governments.”

“Unite members on the other two boards are considering proposals that include pay increases and therefore provide a consolidated improvement over the bare 1.75% offered nationally,” Unite’s Gareth Scott said.

“While the members of these councils must decide whether these proposals go far enough to provide real wage protection, the rest of the councils must now make proposals for higher wages, including base pay measures.”

Belfast City Council said: “The council is engaging with trade unions regarding local working conditions.

“Discussions are ongoing and further engagement with unions is planned in the coming weeks.”

Recently, Belfast City Council has faced various challenges, including stopping the collection of glass from households for recycling due to “operational reasons”.

“Due to staffing shortages, we have been forced to take the decision to temporarily stop our glass crate collection service,” the council said in a statement.

“Frontline employee absences due to Covid also continue to affect our overall service delivery, resulting in resource issues across all services.”

The warning of a possible strike comes after a planned strike by workers at the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon ​​City Council, due to start on August 10, was suspended yesterday after a new round of talks was agreed. Earlier it was reported that more than 1,000 employees would take part in the strike, which could lead to the closure of the council.

On Thursday, GMB, Unite and Nipsa met with advisers from all major parties and UUP leader Doug Beatty to discuss the dispute. New negotiations will be facilitated by the Labor Relations Agency.

Alan Perry, GMB Regional Organizer, said: “Workers deserve fair pay in the midst of the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades. We hope that these new negotiations will lead to meaningful leadership changes. Therefore, we suspended our strike.”