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19 May 2022

Harkin: Political establishment has forced Council workers into taking strike action

Harkin: Political establishment has forced Council workers into taking strike action

Cllr Shaun Harkin: "We owe essential workers our support and solidarity. They have been there for us, now we need to be there for them."

People Before Profit's Shaun Harkin has blasted the “political establishment” for the latest round of Council strikes set to hit Derry and North next week.

Unite the Union members across local councils and in the education and housing sectors held strike action at the start of April, and will do so again in two separate stretches over the next few weeks.

The union announced a 'discontinuous strike', with action lasting from Tuesday April 26 until Sunday May 1 and Tuesday May 3 until Sunday May 8.

Rubbish collections will be disrupted and council facilities such as leisure centres may be closed to the public on designated strike days.

Cllr Harkin, who represents the Foyleside ward and will stand in the Assembly Election next month, insists that the striking workers are not to blame having been backed into a corner by both governments at Stormont and in Westminster.

He said: “Pay cuts amid a cost of living crisis are an injustice. Westminster and Stormont enriched corporations and a corrupt network of politically-connected friends during the pandemic, while Council workers and other essential workers stayed on the frontline to keep vital services available.

“Council workers announced they will be taking a further two weeks of industrial action beginning on April 25.

“There's no doubt the strike by workers here in Derry and right across the North will cause serious disruption.

“The blame for this disruption lies entirely with the political establishment and we should not allow government officials or those on their payroll to demonise workers demanding a pay rise amid a cost of living crisis.

“Appeals by trade unions to decision-makers over many years to begin the process of reversing wage deflation have been summarily dismissed. Workers are being given no option but to make their demands through strike action.

“The present wage offer of less than two per cent is a disgraceful real terms pay cut amid a spiralling inflation spike and inequality crisis.

“Council workers have seen the value of their incomes decline dramatically over the last decade and more. There's no doubt they need and deserve an above inflation pay increase to begin to turn round a decade of pay cuts.

“A decisive intervention by government could avert this strike. However, this appears very unlikely.

“Workers need a real pay rise. We owe essential workers our support and solidarity. They have been there for us, now we need to be there for them.

“We can't tolerate a situation where prices keep going up, profits keep going up but wages remain stagnant.

“We can't tolerate the managed decline of living standards for the many while a handful of corporate profiteers grab more and more wealth. It's urgent there's a united pushback against this now.”

A spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council confirmed that formal notification has been received from Unite the Union in relation to strike action from April 25 to May 1 and from May 3 to May 8.

The spokesperson added: “The Council fully respects the right of staff to take industrial action following an official ballot. Council expects there to be considerable disruption to a range of our services throughout this period. Information in relation to the strike action will be updated when it is available on the Council website at www.derrystrabane.com/strike- action.”

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