Industrial action may be on the cards in Northern Ireland, union warns after 1% pay offer

1% pay rise for Northern Ireland civil servants in 2021-22 a 'retrograde step', union says
Photo: PA

Civil servants in Northern Ireland are set to get a 1% pay rise this year as part of a two-year offer that a union has called a “retrograde step” and warned could trigger industrial action.

As well as the 1% pay rise for 2021-22, non-industrial members of the Northern Ireland Civil Service are being offered a backdated pay rise of 1%, plus a 1% non-consolidated award, for 2020-21. Civil servants have all been moved up one step on their pay band as of August 2020, but increases have been capped at 1%.

Those at the lower end of the pay scale – administrative assistant and equivalent – will get a 3% rise for both years, plus the 1% non-consolidated increase for 2020-21.

The NIPSA trade union representing civil servants in Northern Ireland saidthe pay offer, which comes at a time when the NICS is facing large numbers of vacancies and is struggling to fill some positions, will make its members “extremely disappointed and angry”.

The union's executive committee has recommended members reject the "derisory" offer, and is running a consultation period on how to proceed.

"It is the executive committee’s view that a sustained and potentially prolonged period of industrial action would be necessary to deliver a fair pay rise for civil servants," it said.

It said the offer fails to “recognise the commitment, dedication or hard work of thousands of civil servants over the last year of unprecedented times and working arrangements”, referring to the work civil servants have done during the coronavirus pandemic.

“During those times, ministers from all parties have congratulated civil servants for all the work they have delivered during the past 13 months, but that has not translated into putting a fair and decent pay offer to civil servants," it added.

The statement echoes similar comments by unions representing the home civil service, most of which is now subject to a pay freeze. 

The union also said the offer fails to address the longstanding need for a significant pay boost across the NICS.

Last year, the union lodged a pay claim calling for an above-inflation pay increase that it said was needed to restore fair levels of pay after 11 years of austerity. The offer “goes no way to deliver” on the pay claim, it said.

And NIPSA noted that the offer puts civil servants in line for a lower pay rise than teachers – who have been offered a 2% increase.

If it goes ahead, the pay offer will also standardise working hours at 37 hours per week and increase on-call and standby allowances by 5%.

It will also increase statutory paternity leave from two days to two weeks at full pay.

A Department of Finance spokesperson said the offer is "in contrast to the position in England where the majority of civil servants are facing a pay freeze".

"The offer acknowledges the hard work of civil servants while taking account of the current financial pressures being faced," they said.

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