Belfast Telegraph

Waterfront and Ulster Hall workers to be balloted on strike action

By Michael Sheils McNamee

Workers at venues Belfast Waterfront and the Ulster Hall are to be balloted on strike action.

Ballots for staff affiliated with unions Siptu and Unite will open on Friday.

In a joint statement, Siptu organiser Niall McNally and Unite's regional industrial officer Michael Keenan said the move was being taken due to what they say are broken commitments by the management company set up by Belfast City Council.

Council-owned company the Belfast Waterfront and Ulster Hall Ltd was established in April 2016, with the responsibility of looking after the day-to-day running of the venues and "meeting commercial and non-commercial targets set by the council".

The unions have said in April the company launched a recruitment drive for staff "employed on diminished terms and conditions compared with those standard for existing workers".

Speaking about the new conditions being offered, Mr Keenan said: "In April 2016 when the move was made, workers were promised that there would be no diminution of terms and conditions.

"Unfortunately the arms-length management appear intent on ripping up those commitments to the workers as they seek to squeeze workers’ pay and terms and conditions."

Siptu's Mr McNally said the move had been taken without consultation with the unions, and would create a "two-tier workforce".

"Belfast City Council is the sole-shareholder in this company – this is being done on their behalf – they cannot wash their hands of this deed.  Do councillors really want to be the sole shareholders of a company that is known for breaking agreements and employing staff on minimum standards contracts?," he said. 

Responding on Thursday evening, a spokesperson for Belfast City Council said: "The council is satisfied that the agreement put in place establishing the company is being complied with by the Waterfront Hall Board.

"We approved the establishment of the company to help achieve our aims of increasing the number of visitors to the city and growing the local economy.

"The council received significant funding predicated on this arrangement being put in place and this enabled a new multi million conference facility to be developed at no cost to Belfast ratepayers.

"The performance of the company and its adherence to the agreement is monitored on a quarterly basis by a shareholders meeting."

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