‘Dignity’in the Council Chamber? No thanks say councillors

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AN SDLP Alderman says she would like to see a harmonious working environment in the Council Chamber.

Alderman Maura Hickey was speaking at last Tuesday night’s Policy and Development committee meeting at Cloonavin, as councillors were asked to agree on a ‘Dignity at Work’ policy laid out by Council’s Human Resources department.

The policy aims to prevent harassment in the workplace, and provide guidance to resolve any problems should they occur.

Members were asked to adopt the policy across the Council workforce, however Alderman Hickey proposed that the document should be extended to councillors. Her proposal was seconded by Sinn Fein councillor Ciaran Archibald.

There was some debate about the proposal, with many of the opinion that councillors were not employees, but elected representatives.

DUP councillor George Duddy told the meeting: “We are not employees therefore if we accept this proposal it will make a farce out of what’s in front of us.

“I don’t see how this proposal could carry any weight. There are comments made in politics.”

He put forward an amendment that members should accept the policy as it was.

UUP councillor David Harding seconded the amendment saying: “This is a good process. I do accept what the Deputy Mayor is saying, there are things said in the Chamber which are far from acceptable.”

However, independent councillor Christine Alexander supported Alderman Hickey’s proposal saying: “We are employees, therefore this should carry through to the Chamber”.

UUP councillor William McCandless suggested that it was the job of the chairmen of each of the Council committees to enforce order in the meetings.

Alderman James McClure was angry about the proposal saying: “ We are not employees. We’re elected by the people.”

Alderman Hickey concluded the debate saying: “I was thinking more about us adopting the spirit of the policy.”

On being put to a vote the amendment to accept the policy for Council staff was carried.