Unions attack Northern Ireland council's 'secret deal' to outsource waste collection services
Trade unions have reacted with anger after Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council proposed to outsource some of its waste collection services to a private company.
The unions fear the move could lead to the greater privatisation of council services, with workers being paid less.
The proposals would see the outsourcing of the black bin collection service in the Newtownabbey area and the brown bin organic waste collection service in the Antrim town area.
The plan would also involve a voluntary severance scheme for council staff.
The local authority has already approved the proposals in closed council, from which the Press were barred.
They will be implemented subject to consultation between the council, staff and trade unions.
The GMB slammed what it called a "secret" deal to privatise bin collection, saying that none of the affected staff or the trade unions representing them were consulted in advance.
GMB regional organiser Alan Perry said the move would mean "cash will come before collections" and could lead to all waste collection in the borough being outsourced.
He said: "When public sector contracts are awarded to private companies, irrespective of how experienced the company believe themselves to be, profit becomes the main driver for that contract.
"Money must be made and the service delivery becomes secondary to that.
"It also means that councils and the public lose control over waste streams and the service becomes disjointed."
He added: "Our most immediate concern is for our members' job security."
Unite regional officer Michael Keenan also indicated his union's "outright opposition" to the proposals.
"Management believe they can obtain sufficient voluntary redundancies to bring forward their plans to avoid TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment) obligations," he said.
"This will mean that new workers doing this work will be paid less than those currently employed by the council directly.
"Council staff members also fear that this approach may be repeated in relation to the outsourcing of leisure services and avoidance of TUPE protections for those workers.
"Private sector operators are motivated only by the need to maximise profit.
"Outsourcing will downgrade workers' pay and terms and conditions and potentially undermine the service in future years."
Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council said: "For customers, their bin collection service will continue to operate as it currently does and no additional charges will be incurred.
"For staff, it means that we can accommodate those seeking to leave through the severance scheme on a voluntary basis, and we have reassured all staff that there will be no compulsory redundancies or TUPE transfers to another service provider.
"Currently there are no plans to outsource the entire waste collection service."
When asked if there were any plans to outsource other council services to the private sector, it said: "The council will continue to review the services it provides to ensure quality and best value for all ratepayers."