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Strike action by Electoral Office staff looks likely

By Rebecca Black

Published 28/05/2016

Concerned: Reg Empey
Concerned: Reg Empey

Electoral Office workers are set to strike over the prospect of having to drive longer distances to work, it can be revealed.

The trade union Nipsa previously indicated it would consider taking action around the time of the EU referendum next month.

However, a leaked union circular seen by the Belfast Telegraph reveals the strike action has been planned for June 3 and June 7.

It comes after a proposal to centralise many of its services in Belfast and close six regional electoral offices.

A decision has not yet been made and depends on consultation with the union's members.

The six offices involved in the strike action include Ballymena, Banbridge, Londonderry, Newtownabbey, Newtownards and Omagh.

Electoral Office management had talks with trade union officials but they ended without resolution.

Nipsa official Dooley Harte said 92% of the trade union's members supported strike action, while 100% backed other forms of industrial action, such as a ban on overtime.

In the union circular it described the action in response to workers being put at risk, or "having to travel in some instances long distances to work".

There are 30 Nipsa members working across the six regional offices.

The document also revealed that members are commencing an overtime ban and will only be working their contracted hours from Thursday, June 2, which could also affect voter registration.

Ulster Unionist peer Lord Empey has expressed concern that the industrial action could have an impact on the EU referendum.

"I have been warning for months about the deteriorating situation at the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland, and the announcement of two days of strike action, following a ballot of staff, is further proof that the matter is out of control," he said.

A spokesman for the Electoral Commission said it is working to ensure voters don't face disruption when registering to vote, or when they cast their vote on polling day.

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