I am sure many of you have been following the distressing news in relation to Antrim and Newtownabbey Council's proposal to make redundant 73 staff from Agency, Temporary and Permanent employees with less than 1 year service and considering the potential impact on your situation. The council stated that with public venue closures impacting revenue, they were facing an unprecedented financial challenge. They proposed four money saving measures:
- All planned recruitment of posts would be suspended;
- The Council would withdraw from all secondment arrangements;
- The Council would release 27 Agency Workers who were not working in essential services;
- The Council would dismiss 46 staff on permanent contracts, with a service of under one year who were not working in essential services.
The Council imposed a two-day consultation period requesting a formal response by Wednesday 29 April at 5pm.
NIPSA along with Trade Union Side colleagues challenged this decision vigorously and in particular the failure to follow Local Government Association Guidance and lack of notice given for consultation, which was just two days and did not conform to the 30 days' notice required by law.
NIPSA and TUS rejected the proposal and called on NIC-ICTU, Councillors, MLA's and the Local Government Minister for Department of Communities to intervene in the council's flawed approach on this matter which clearly conflicted with Central and Local Government principles and guidelines around safe-guarding jobs and utilising all options to retain staff at this time.
NIPSA therefore welcomed the DFC Minister's statement on Thursday 30 April stating:
We must respect the rights of workers and protect jobs. Of course I share Councils' concerns about their ongoing financial sustainability. But this a time for careful consideration of all the options before taking action. My officials have been working closely with Councils to understand the full level of their lost income, the additional costs they have incurred in relation to the pandemic, and the extent to which they can manage the situation by making use of the Government's Job Retention Scheme.
The Council responded stating they would postpone the dismissal of 46 contracted staff while they explored the possibility of funding from the Government Job Retention Scheme and had reached a furlough agreement for 27 Agency Workers.
Whilst welcoming the postponement of redundancies, NIPSA and TUS colleagues will continue to oppose the threat of redundancies and seek to meet with all parties involved including requesting to meet with the Minister for the Department of Communities to explore all options available for Councils at this time.
NIPSA has also sought clarification that all other Councils clarify whether they have any similar plans to Antrim Newtownabbey Council and to also work closely in exploring all options with TUS in a timely manner and in accordance with the DFC Minister statement.
To date no other Council has expressed plans for redundancies at this time though many are taking up the option of furloughing, where furloughing is implemented NIPSA will campaign to protect the rights of members to receive full salary.
I therefore urge all members to be vigilant and work with your Representatives to ensure that your issues are central to the future developments and challenges that will arise during this Covid-19 crisis.