Unite challenges council's use of agency workers amid strike action

British and Irish trade union Unite is set to challenge Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council’s decision to use agency workers where refuse workers are on strike.

refuse workersUnite says the council’s response suggests determination ‘to avoid paying a cost of living increase to their employees regardless of the legality of their action’. Workers on picket lines in Lisburn and Castlereagh have ‘expressed indignation’ as a result of the council's choice to cover their work with agency workers.

Unite has announced that it will challenge this ‘unlawful’ management decision – which appears as an attempt to break the strike by council workers. Despite retail price inflation at 12.3 per cent, Unite says that the council's choice fails to address its worker's demand for a pay adjustment that could ‘protect them and their families from hardship’.

Sharon Graham, General Secretary of Unite, said: “It is not lawful for any employer to take on agency workers or to reassign existing agency workers to cover work affected by industrial action. Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council is a local government body and it is completely unacceptable for them to act with such disregard for employment law.

“My union will seek all avenues to challenge this unlawful behaviour by council management. This is a shameful attack on their own workforce but it will only redouble the determination of council workers and their union to win a cost of living pay increase.”

Kieran Ellison, Unite Regional Officer for the council, added: “This is one of the only councils in Northern Ireland where there has been no pay offer whatsoever. While two other councils have concluded pay settlements which resolved their industrial disputes, and many others are involved in constructive negotiations, Lisburn and Castlereagh bosses offer nothing to their employees who are facing the worst cost of living crisis in decades.

“Management is acting disgracefully and needs to be pulled in; councillors need to make it clear to management that flagrant breaches of law are not acceptable as they are sending a signal throughout the borough that any individual can break the law when it suits them.

“We have already reported this breach of employment law and we will use every angle to challenge this legally. The use of agency workers by council bosses to undermine a strike by their own workers – workers who were only months ago feted as essential and frontline – has been met with anger and derision on picket lines. Workers are standing for dignity and respect and they are determined to win both.”