Page last updated at 18:03 GMT, Wednesday, 16 July 2008 19:03 UK

Council workers staging strike

picket line
Picket lines have been formed across Northern Ireland

Council workers and local government employees across Northern Ireland have been on picket lines on the first day of a two-day strike.

Employers say across the UK, just under a quarter of workers are taking part in the action. However, they claim the figure is lower in Northern Ireland.

Unions say the rising cost of food and petrol effectively makes a 2.45% pay offer a pay cut, and they want 6%.

Bin collections have not been affected in a number of council areas.

Antrim, Armagh, Ards, Ballymoney, Banbridge, Dungannon, Fermanagh, Magherafelt, Moyle and Omagh have all reported normal service.

Many leisure centres were shut down.

The City of Derry airport was closed, as was Belfast Zoo.

The housing executive said it had plans for low staff numbers this week anyway, due to the Twelfth. It is maintaining essential services but its offices in west Belfast, Londonderry and Ballycastle have closed.

Belfast zoo
Belfast Zoo has been closed due to the strike

All libraries were closed in Belfast, while all were open in the North Eastern area. Across Northern Ireland the picture has been mixed, with customers being advised to check first whether the service is operating.

Albert Mills of the Unite union said he hoped the strike would "send a signal to employers, 'get round the table, let's talk, let's resolve these issues'. We want to resolve it and we need to resolve it.

"So we're asking them to do the decent thing and get round the table."

The Local Government Association said the strike was regrettable, but the 2.45% pay increase was their best and final offer.

Union members say that is not enough.

Unions argue that with the cost of living becoming more and more expensive, their members need an increase of 6%.

But employers say frontline services could be cut if salaries were to increase. They also point out the unions are split on the issue - the GMB union has accepted the pay deal.

Council staff begin strike action
16 Jul 08 |  Northern Ireland
Councils draw up bin strike plans
11 Jul 08 |  Northern Ireland

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