The SDLP has called for urgent reform of Northern Ireland’s Trade Union laws after it was announced that a strike disrupting waste collections in Lisburn and Castlereagh is set to drag on until the end of the month.
Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council have made a pay offer to the striking council staff. However, the law in the North demands a ballot to accept the offer must be done using postal votes. This means there won’t be an answer for another three weeks.
Most countries have changed trade union rules to allow members to vote on ballots online or in a meeting. A bill that would have allowed online or in person voting on ballots was voted down by the Assembly in March.
Castlereagh Councillor Simon Lee said his constituents would find the rules distressing:
“Everyone wants this strike to come to a positive end. The SDLP supports workers providing a valuable public service in their fight for a fair pay settlement, particularly as food, fuel and energy bills continue to devastate household finances. We have fought for our council staff to receive better pay conditions and I sincerely hope that the revised pay offer is acceptable.
“Unfortunately, as a result of our restrictive laws, we won’t hear whether the offer was accepted until 28th October. This news will be deeply distressing for the people of Lisburn and Castlereagh who have already seen their waste collections disrupted in recent weeks.
“It's daft that in the 21st Century the people of Lisburn and Castlereagh are waiting nearly a month for the results of a postal ballot. A bill came before the Assembly in March that would have allowed for online and in person ballot voting. Unfortunately, other Assembly parties voted these provisions down.
“Had this bill been passed, this ballot could have been resolved in a matter of days. Instead our laws force workers to use this outdated process of mail in ballots which is needlessly dragging the process out for weeks.
“We need the Assembly back up and running so we can modernise these rules and intervene to find a solution for our council staff and the people of Lisburn and Castlereagh.”