Belfast Telegraph

Minister in row over council job loss fears

BY NOEL MCADAM

A Stormont minister has accused the main Civil Service union of "scaremongering" over the level of local government job losses from council mergers.

The SDLP's Mark H Durkan hit out at the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (Nipsa) which, in turn, accused him of putting politics ahead of workers' rights.

The row comes – as the Belfast Telegraph revealed last week – as a new consultation began on the appointment of chief executives to the 11 new councils.

It also follows a rebuke from the minister to five councils, including Belfast, Lisburn and Castlereagh, over failures to follow official guidance on setting up committees to oversee the reduction from 26 councils.

Nipsa assistant general secret-ary Bumper Graham said: "This is political gerrymandering at the expense of workers rights. Minister Durkan was quite sharp in accusing councils of ignoring guidance but the department is the same, if not worse.

"Within the last number of weeks his department has shredded agreements, unilaterally set aside guiding principles agreed by the Northern Ireland Executive in order to protect staff and shown total disregard for employment law.

"The disgraceful behaviour of the DoE is tantamount to, at best, bullying."

Nipsa officials say the appointment of chief executives should be conducted by "limited competition" – giving the current 26 the first chance at the 11 new jobs.

The 15, or more, who are not successful should then be accommodated at the next level and so on down through the council structures, the union argues.

But the Local Government Staff Commission is consulting on how it can accommodate a move towards open competition.

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