11 °CSat, 17

Agency staff in Council roles "receiving raw deal"

Claire Tennyson

Reporter:

Claire Tennyson

AGENCY workers in roles within the Council have been expressing their frustrations that they have not been offered permanent employment.

Bannside TUV Councillor Stewart McDonald said: "Several hardworking people came to me expressing their frustration that they have been unable to obtain steady employment with the council after working through an agency for a considerable period.

"For some time now I have been concerned about the Council’s policies when it comes to the employment of agency workers.

“In order to establish the facts last month I tabled a series of questions to the Council which have done little to remove my fears that agency staff are getting a raw deal from Mid and East Antrim Council.

"I have established that although 315 agency staff are employed by the council not one has transferred to become council staff in the past year."

Councillor McDonald continued: "One of the agencies used by the council charges 10% of annual salary as a fee if an agency worker becomes a member of council staff proper.

“The average length of time an agency worker has been employed by the council is 2.8 years with one agency worker employed for 12 years and £3.8 million has been spent on agency workers in the year 2017/18 - an average weekly cost of £76,923."

“The council could not advise me how much of that weekly cost of £77,000 ends up in the pockets of workers and how much of it is taken by the agencies.

“Mid and East Antrim Council recently hired three new directors.

"They didn’t go to agencies to get them."

He added: “I am concerned that staff are receiving a raw deal from these arrangements.

"While agency work doubtless suites the needs of both the council and the employee in some cases I know that there are many agency workers who would welcome the additional benefits and security which would come with obtaining a position with the council proper.

"With the average agency worker in post for almost three years it is clear that many have been providing invaluable service to the council with no need to swap and change employees.

“I believe the people of Mid and East Antrim want to see happy staff paid as they should be with the proper security of employment we would like for ourselves and our families.

"I will continue to press this issue from within the council chamber and committees.”

Council statement

A spokesperson from Mid and East Antrim Council said: "Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is a multi-award winning council with a reputation for innovation, dynamism and leadership at a regional level.

“Since the creation of the new council in 2015, our entire team at Mid and East Antrim has had a truly transformational impact in creating what is now widely regarded as one of region’s best-performing councils, across many areas.

“We continue to lead the way as Northern Ireland's top performing council for planning and the achieving of job targets for business start-ups, and currently rank second out of all 11 councils in the region in relation to the percentage of household waste sent for recycling.

“Like all Northern Ireland councils, we are continuing to deliver the transformation of local government structures and ensuring our organisation is best fit for purpose, working closely with our elected members and trade unions.

“The use of agency staff is often the most effective solution to ensuring the delivery of essential services, particularly during periods of short-term upsurges in workload.

“However, we expect that the use of agency workers covering these type of posts on a temporary basis will reduce, moving forward.”

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