Northern Ireland civil servants set to get long-awaited pay offer

Funding allocation finds additional £100m for public sector pay after restoration of executive
NIPSA members take part in 18 January's strike Photo: NIPSA

By Jim Dunton

19 Feb 2024

Members of the Northern Ireland Civil Service are finally set to get a pay offer for 2023-24 following the agreement of departmental budgets.

Finance minister Caoimhe Archibald said on Thursday that additional funding of “just over £100m” had been found for public sector pay in Northern Ireland as part of the financial package agreed with the UK government to accompany the restoration of the executive.

The funding takes the previously identified figure of £584m for public sector pay in 2023-24 to £688m. However, Archibald acknowledged that the figure still falls short of the figures departments have calculated is needed across the public sector.

“It is regrettable that the executive was not in a position to fund the full c£700m of estimated pay costs identified by departments,” she said. “However, it has gone as far as possible within the resources available and the allocations agreed today go a significant way [to address] those pressures.”

Last month, thousands of members of the NICS joined a one-day strike over public sector pay in Northern Ireland – one of the many casualties of 2022’s collapse of power-sharing between Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party.

Last year, NICS staff were awarded an across-the-board £552 pay adjustment for 2022-23. The NIPSA trade union said the figure was worth less than 1% for most civil servants.

In January, NICS head Jayne Brady said an estimated £634m was needed to maintain "broad parity" between Northern Ireland civil servants and those in England, Scotland and Wales.

CSW understands that a 2023-24 pay offer for NICS members is due to be tabled today.

NIPSA general secretary Carmel Gates said the final departmental settlements set out by finance minister Archibald are good news. However, she cautioned that there could still be a funding shortfall.

“We’re delighted that there’s been progress on agreeing to find additional money for pay,” she said. “But I don’t know whether there’s going to be enough to fund all of the pay claims that are outstanding.

“Our hope is that we’ll get something that will satisfy our members.”

Gates said the union will look to go out to consultation very quickly for “the right figure”. She noted that the HR system in NICS has a 12-week lead-in period, meaning any accepted offer will not go into civil servants’ pay packets before May.

Irish Congress of Trade Unions assistant general secretary Gerry Murphy echoed Gates’s concerns about the quantum of funding for pay.

“While we welcome the prospect of settling disputes for this year, we are clear that public sector pay is not a one-off issue,” he said.

“Public services do not exist without the necessary funding for public sector pay. Paying staff must never again be seen as an optional extra.”

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