By Gillian Anderson
Local Democracy Reporter
CONCERNED council workers in the Strabane area are alleging they receive ‘unfair treatment’ in comparison to their counterparts in Derry.
Cllr Ruairí McHugh, who represents the Derg DEA, revealed that he had been ‘lobbied’ by members of the ground maintenance team.
“There’s a perception,” he stated, “whether real or not, since the cost-saving exercise has been put in place, that they believe they’re treated unfairly in relation to Derry-based employees.”
He continued, “What I’m referring to is in terms of the nature of work that has been delegated to them. There is a sense of disparity there and I have outlined my concerns in an email to council officers.
“It was to seek assurance from council officers that this disparity or perceived disparity will be addressed and measures taken to consult employees and their unions to ensure that this was not the case, and indeed that their views will be taken under consideration with regards to any changes to the work schedules going forward.”
Karen Phillips, Director of Environment and Regeneration at Derry City & Strabane District Council, responded to McHugh’s concerns.
“I spoke to the Head of Environment this morning. Neither he nor I have had any contact from any members of staff or indeed any unions in relation to that and that would be the normal process and the normal procedure.”
Ms Phillips assured Cllr McHugh that she would collaborate with the Head of Human Resources, unions, and the relevant teams to ‘try and find out what happened and make sure that we address any concerns that have been raised’.
Council chief executive John Kelpie added his thoughts, stating, “Just to reassure members we have a very constructive and positive relationship with our joint trade unions and the council.
“We regularly meet with the trade unions to assess any issues with any employee or any group of employees across the organisation.
“We met very swiftly with the joint trade unions in respect of the proposed service costs that came through from the rates estimates process to outline to them all the cuts and to assure them that as we go forward implementing any of those costs that we would seek to engage fully with respect to that.
“I do want to be very clear that if there’s any perception whatsoever within any section of our workforce that there’s been differential treatment, that that is not something we as a senior team endorse, it’s not something we as a senior team set out to do and we treat it very seriously.
“So we will, of course, look into those allegations and we will make sure that people are communicated with and that the unions are brought forward, as we do with everything with regard to potential changes to terms and conditions.”