Fórsa is to ballot local authority staff for industrial action in its dispute over the introduction of a job evaluation system for clerical and administrative staff.
Announcing the move at the union’s Local Government & Local Services Division conference last week, the union’s National Secretary, Peter Nolan, said it was a response to management’s withdrawal from Labour Court proceedings on the long-running dispute.
The union wants a local authority job evaluation scheme similar to the one that operates in the HSE and the education sector.
Job evaluation is an established tool that allows the knowledge, skills and responsibilities associated with individual jobs – rather than grades or staff categories – to be assessed and appropriately rewarded.
The dispute was aired in the Labour Court last year. The Court ordered Fórsa to present a business case to support its claim. The union has completed this work, but the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA), which represents council employers, has refused to return to the Labour Court.
Peter said local authority workers would now be asked to back industrial action up to and including the withdrawal of labour. He said almost 10,000 council jobs were lost following the financial crisis, and services had only been maintained because staff had taken on additional responsibilities above their pay grades.
“The pay system in local government lacks equality, consistency and fairness. Local authorities suffered the greatest reduction of numbers of employees during the austerity era, which has resulted in significant grade drift in the sector. Local authority workers deserve no less favourable treatment than colleagues in other sectors,” he said.
He said there were disparities in pay rates across the local government sector, where staff doing the same work could be paid more or less depending on which of the 31 councils they work for.
“We know that technicians, archivists, heritage officers, museum curators, environmental awareness officers, library staff, authorised officers and IT workers are being paid different pay rates in different counties.
“We believe it is precisely for this reason that the employers are so strenuous in their opposition to a job evaluation scheme for the sector. That’s why they refuse agree to go to the Labour Court to consider our claim,” he said.
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