NI civil servants to strike again over failure to address pay dispute

Civil servants are "victims of the secretary of state’s sanctions budget", NIPSA union says
Photo: Radharc Images/Alamy Stock Photo

Civil servants in Northern Ireland will walk out on 22 September in a dispute over pay, alongside public servants in health and social-care services.

The NIPSA trade union staged strikes earlier this year, and has warned it will escalate its industrial action unless its members receive a better pay offer.

The Department of Finance implemented a pay adjustment of just £552 to most Northern Ireland Civil Service staff in April – excluding the lowest-paid staff, whose wages were increased to the Living Wage Foundation rate of £21,053 a year – despite unions’ opposition. A NIPSA briefing in July said the flat-rate award is worth less than 1% to the majority of civil servants, excluding administrative assistants.

Unlike most of their counterparts in England and Wales, staff in the Northern Ireland Civil Service were not offered a £1,500 cost-of-living payment this summer.

Civil service members of the GMB and Unite unions will take part in next week’s strike, along with NIPSA.

NIPSA general secretary Carmel Gates said: “It is clear that health workers and civil servants are victims of the secretary of state’s sanctions budget. Westminster is refusing to give our members pay justice.

“Workers are being punished because there is no NI Assembly. Public sector workers have become a political football."

Northern Ireland has been without a fully functioning executive since February 2022, following the collapse of power-sharing over the Democratic Unionist Party's objections to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Departments are facing resource constraints after a budget imposed by Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris in April left a funding shortfall. Unions said the £14.2bn budget meant departments would need to shave 10% off their spending, while  NICS head Jayne Brady said in July that an overspend would be “unavoidable” amid the ongoing power vacuum.

However, Gates said it is “entirely within the gift of the secretary of state to resolve the pay issue for all public sector workers here by making more money available”.

“Our action will be a clear signal to him that we are not prepared to accept the sanctions imposed on us by his punitive budget,” she added.

The coordinated strike action will also include NIPSA health and care workers, and midwives and maternity support-worker members of the Royal College of Midwives.

Karen Murray, the RCM’s director for Northern Ireland, said midwives are “deeply frustrated by the lack of any progress by policymakers and because of that they have been driven to take a stand for fair pay and safer care and maternity services”.

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