The Trade Union Side (TUS) representatives met with HR this morning to discuss several questions that have been put to us as a result of the Council's recent offer to furlough staff and then the immediately withdraw of that offer.

The TUS have requested a meeting with Jacqui Dixon directly at her earliest availability and are disappointed that up to this point, the CEO has been silent on the recent decision made by the Council.

NIPSA took various concerns to HR. Some of these concerns may be better answered by the CEO, but HR have responded to the following main concerns:

  • Why has furlough been postponed? The Council need a decision from local Councillors in order to make an application to the furlough scheme. HR have not confirmed when this meeting will take place.
  • What rate of pay will furloughed staff receive? The Council will put together costings for Councillors to consider. The furlough scheme provides 80% of staff wages, so staff will be paid at least 80%. NIPSA has stressed to the Council that other Councils are covering a further 20% in order to pay a full wage. The Council will make this decision depending on the financial capabilities.
  • Who is getting furloughed? About 150 staff received notice of furlough on Monday and the Council is trying to agree to furlough more staff. NIPSA has questioned the backdating of furlough to 19th March for those who have been working from home or on a rota basis. The Council are making a backdated claim for anyone who was not working for a total period of 3 weeks since 19th March, not necessarily not working at all.
  • What are the risks of accepting/rejecting furlough? NIPSA expressed to the Council that members were concerned that accepting furlough would put you at risk of redundancy. The local Councillors have agreed to remove the policy that protects staff from compulsory redundancy. This could result in redundancies once the Council resumes service. HR have confirmed that redundancies will be selected through a full consultation process and selection criteria will not be based on if your post was furloughed at this time. More concerns are around the risk that people may face if they reject furlough. This is valid concern. It has been established in other areas (the private sector) that a rejection of furlough could lead to redundancy if the organisation can prove that the work is not available. That being said, if you believe that you have a strong case for work that is available, you should begin to compile that information now.
    Please note that NIPSA are against any plans to make staff redundant at this time or in the future and will actively oppose and campaign against decisions to make staff compulsory redundant.
  • What are the plans for the 46 short service contracted staff? It is NIPSA's hope that furlough measures will provide enough financial protection for the Council to protect short service staff from dismissal. HR have NOT confirmed that this will be the case and those staff are still considered to be at risk. This will be reviewed regularly going forward.

What should NIPSA members do at this point? Members need to be aware that the offer of furlough will be coming back and additional staff may receive furlough notifications. Members should research furlough and gather information to be prepared to make an informed decision relating to their post. If you are in the 46 short service risk group, I would continue to encourage getting in touch with local Councillors and express your hope that they will overturn decisions relating to your redundancy.

What will NIPSA do? NIPSA will continue to fight for members to receive a full furlough wage. NIPSA believes that all Councils should be adding to the funds to the furlough money available to ensure furloughed staff receive 100% pay.

NIPSA will oppose any redundancies of both long term and short term staff and seek reassurance that furlough measures will offer protection to at risk groups.

NIPSA will continue to lobby local councillors, MLAs and party leaders on these issues and publically hold the Council to account for their actions towards staff.

NIPSA, GMB and UNITE will continue to meet with HR regularly to discuss ongoing issues and will schedule a meeting with the CEO directly.

I wish to assure NIPSA members that the combined TUS are conveying the message to management that members are increasingly frustrated with the Council's actions at this time and that the behaviour of the Council towards it's staff has been unacceptable.

Natalie Shiel
Higher Executive Officer