One of Northern Ireland's leading trade unions has hit out at a "disgraceful" plan by one of our local councils to axe 73 jobs.
Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council informed all agency and short service staff on Tuesday that they are proposing to lay them off due to financial pressures caused by the Covid-19 lockdown.
They were informed by email - a copy of which has been leaked to the Belfast Telegraph - sent and signed by Andrea McCooke, the Director of Organisation Development with the council.
The letter stated that at a council meeting on Monday "an emergency financial plan was agreed and some very difficult decisions have been made".
It continued: "As a matter of urgency and to reduce costs, it is proposed that all agency and short service staff that are not essential to the operation of the Council, will be terminated with one week's notice from the date on which the final decision will be made and communicated to those directly affected.
"Your manager may have already contacted you by phone to explain that because you have short service, of less than one year, it is proposed to end your contact with the Council."
This is a disgraceful approach by council officials and threatens to leave 73 workers without any income, facing immediate deprivation in the middle of the worst public health crisis in generationsKieran Ellison, Unite Regional Officer
The missive states that the council has "commenced consultation with the trade unions regarding our proposals" and that it is set to close at 5pm on Tuesday.
Kieran Ellison, Unite Regional Officer with responsibility for members working for the council, warned that they would be challenging the approach taken by management and their plans for a large-scale lay-off of workers on permanent, fixed term and agency contracts. He said: "Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council management has given the trade unions, Unite, GMB and NIPSA, effectively 48 hours' notice of plans to dismiss 73 workers in response to a pending financial squeeze.
"We will be challenging the council robustly on their interpretation of the consultation.
"At a meeting last night (Monday), council officials effectively provided elected representatives a fait accompli in regard to the need for job losses.
"The plans are to dismiss by the end of the week: 27 agency workers, 17 workers on temporary fixed-term contracts and 29 permanent workers with less than one year's employment - all workers with no redundancy entitlement.
"This is a disgraceful approach by council officials and threatens to leave 73 workers without any income, facing immediate deprivation in the middle of the worst public health crisis in generations."
A councillor was asked to comment but he said members were unable to do while the consultation takes place and because the meeting was held in camera.
In her email Mrs McCooke said she was sending it "with regret" and that the decision was made because "a budgetary review has been completed to help secure our future financial stability" during the pandemic.