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Why are we taking industrial action including strike action?
Inflation is running at 2%. You have received a 1.25% pay increase and this has been imposed for the 3rd successive year. In the past 10 years, below inflation pay awards have eroded your pay in real terms by between 10% and 20%. The NICS pay awards have been far below recent awards to other public sector workers.
Members at AA and analogous grades have been awarded 3% to keep their pay levels just above the National Minimum Wage.
Many NIPSA members now rely on second jobs and working tax credits to make ends meet. 66% of Civil Servants now earn less than the UK average wage. More than 53% earn less than the NI average wage.
The NICS response to our claim is that “there is no money”. We know from experience that money can be found when it is needed. The Assembly spent £210million to reduce the NICS by 3,500. They are now recruiting staff at SO and DP level which completely undermines your promotion prospects and your terms and conditions. This was done without any consultation with NIPSA. At the same time, they are introducing policies which will put more responsibilities on the shoulders of line managers in relation to sick absence management, grievance and discipline without any agreement with NIPSA. A successful resolution to the current dispute will ensure that we can continue to bargain and negotiate our pay and terms and conditions rather than have them imposed on us.
What was the ballot result?
We had an excellent result in the ballot. The overwhelming majority of members have voted for action.
Thank you for your support.
Are you prepared to take part in industrial action consisting of a strike?
|Number of ballot papers returned||5,937|
|Number of ballot papers found to be invalid||114|
|Total number of ballot papers to be counted||5823|
Number voting Yes
|Number voting No||1,832 (31.5%)|
Are you prepared to take part in industrial action short of a strike?
|Number of ballot papers returned||5,937|
|Number of ballot papers found to be invalid||98|
|Total number of ballot papers to be counted||5839|
Number voting Yes
|Number voting No||821 (14.1%)|
Why is the strike taking place in July when many members are on leave and why is it on a Friday?
The timing of the strike is not ideal but legislation requires us to begin our action within one month of our ballot result. To reach the maximum number of members, it was important to complete the ballot before the leave season began in June. Our ballot result was received on Friday 28 June. The latest date we can call the strike is, therefore, Friday 26 July.
Money is so tight at the moment.
NIPSA understands your concerns. But it’s important to think about what you could gain and the money you need in retirement to support yourself. Any pay gained through an increased offer may or may not offset what you lose in the immediate term through strike reductions.
- Any gains we make mean that the starting point for ANY future pay rise is higher than it would otherwise be;
- the value of ANY future increment is higher than it would otherwise be;
- the value of the pension pot accumulating is higher than it would otherwise be.
Our employer is relying on us being too weak or too scared to put up a fight against this attack on your pay and terms & conditions. We have to show them that they are wrong. We need to make sure they know we are prepared to fight.
That’s why getting a high turnout on 26 July matters!
Who is being called on to strike on 26 July?
All Civil Servants and those in ALBs/NDPBs covered by the NICS pay agreements are being called out for a full day strike action on 26 July. If you were balloted you are included in the action.
Is our claim affordable?
The pay of Civil Servants is now so poor that many workers have to rely on second jobs or on tax credits. It makes far more sense to pay this money as wages. Extra taxes and National Insurance to the Treasury will help to fund our claim. Higher wages will lead to more local spending and boost local businesses.
Will the strike make the NICS change its mind?
We certainly hope so and would not ask members to strike if we didn’t think so. Strike action has always been a last resort in trying to force employers to negotiate more seriously. Although there is never a guarantee that our action will be successful, demonstrating the strength of feeling about our pay is vital.
It is really important that we get a very big turnout on 26 July. A low turnout would allow the employers to suggest that our members are not bothered by the attack on their pay and terms and conditions. A strong turnout will give a message in itself about the strength of feeling over these attacks. It puts NIPSA in a better position to defend against attacks on jobs and conditions. A low turnout could make our employer even bolder in their attacks on us in future.
The pay award has been imposed. Does this make a difference?
The pay award has been imposed on you for the 3rd successive year despite the fact that NIPSA was engaged in consultation. Members are rightly very angry about this and have made clear that imposition should not mean the end of the matter for 2018/2019 pay. But our current action is also about the attacks on our terms & conditions which are ongoing. Our action will, therefore, continue from the 2018/19 pay award into the 2019/20 pay claim to ensure the NICS Management gets the clear message from NIPSA members that #EnoughisEnough
What is action short of strike action?
This is where workers refuse to perform some duties and includes action such as not attending or assisting with staff engagement forums, refusing to undertake any voluntary duties and ensuring you take your proper breaks. We are not asking members to take any further action short of strike action at present but the situation will be kept under review. If in doubt, please speak to your branch secretary in the first instance or to your seconded officer.
Do I have to tell my employer if I am intending to take strike action?
You should not – and are not required to – declare in advance to your manager and/or HR that you will strike. NIPSA has provided all the information that is legally required. If your employer knows in advance that you are taking action it could minimise the disruption caused. If asked, you should respond: “my union has advised me that I am not required to let you know my intentions prior to the start of any industrial action”. You need only declare that you took part if you are asked after the strike day.
How can I help get our message out better?
The media can be very biased sometimes and do not give the full picture. NIPSA will be doing everything we can to ensure that the public are told the real facts. You can help by telling your story. Write to your local paper and engage in discussions on radio. We hope to set up stalls in local town centres to provide leaflets and talk to people. We would ask you to join those. Remember to make sure your own family and friends know that our claim is affordable and political choices can be made.
I voted against strike action or didn’t vote. Do I have to take part?
Whether you voted for strike action and/or action short of strike action or not, you are expected to respect the democratic decision of the members and support your union. The majority of members balloted voted ‘yes’ to strike action and so we would hope you would join your trade union colleagues by participating fully in the industrial action, in line with NIPSA’s democratic decision-making process. You cannot be forced to do so, but it is part of belonging to a democratic union in which decisions are made collectively. We recognise that taking strike action is very serious, which is why NIPSA asks you and every other member to observe the strike. Every member who does not will undermine our bargaining power and make it harder for us to protect all our members
Does a day of strike action count as a break in my employment?
No. Being on strike does not break your service. During a strike your continuous employment is treated as ‘postponed’. This means that the period you were on strike for will not count towards your continuous employment, but it does not break the continuity of your period of employment.
Is a strike a breach of contract and could I be dismissed for taking part?
A strike is a breach of contract and in return employers do not normally pay you. You may get an official notice that you will be in breach of contract but you should not be alarmed. You cannot be dismissed for industrial action if:
- It is called as a result of a properly organised ballot.
- It is about a trade dispute between workers and their employer (e.g. about your terms and conditions).
- A detailed notice about the industrial action (which is legally required) has been given to your employer at least 7 days before it begins.
NIPSA has carried out a lawful statutory ballot. The law protects workers from dismissal whilst taking part in lawful industrial action at any time within 12 weeks of the start of action.
I’m in my first 12 months of employment — what are my rights?
Employees are protected from dismissal during the first 12 weeks of any lawful, balloted, official industrial action. Any dismissal for taking part in industrial action in the 12 week period, regardless of how long the employee has worked, or their age, is automatically unfair. Those who are still on probation are likely to have their probation period extended by the number of strike days taken.
What if I’m on sick leave?
Workers who are absent on sick leave when a stoppage of work starts retain their right to statutory sick pay during the period of industrial action. If an employee reports sick on the day the action starts, the employer may require proof.
What if I take annual leave?
NIPSA does not regard anyone who takes annual leave on strike days to be participating in the strike action. If you can, we would like you to postpone your leave so that you can take part in the strike action. If your planned leave coincides with the strike and you have no option, you can ask your employer to treat you as on strike for the day. In the past the NICS has refused leave requests for strike days that had not been received before the strike was announced. It may be more difficult for them to do this during this strike which is during peak leave season.
I want to take part in the action but I don’t work on a Friday.
You can only take part in the strike action if it coincides with a day you are due to be at work. Don’t worry, there will be other strike days which you will be able to take part in. You can, however, still join the picket line on the 26th July to lend your support to your striking colleagues.
Is my pension affected if I take strike action?
A strike is regarded as unauthorised absence and is, therefore, non-reckonable service. It will not count towards your pension. The impact on your final pension, however, will be extremely small.
Will I lose pay if I take strike action?
Yes, you can expect your employer to refuse to pay you for taking strike action. The law makes it clear that employers can deduct pay when staff are on strike.
What if I’m part time?
Any deduction of pay must be pro rata for part time staff. The deduction must be only for your contracted hours.
Will I receive strike pay for striking on 26 July?
Strike pay will not be paid.
What should I do during a strike?
Your branch will organise picket lines at the entrance to your workplace. We would encourage all members to support the picket line even for a short while.
What if I have external work commitments, on the day of the strike?
If your commitments are part of your normal work for your employer, you should not attend them. This includes answering emails, taking calls or working from home.
I’m not a member yet - can I join now and still take part in the proposed action?
Yes. New members can join NIPSA and join the strike right up to and including the day of the strike. You just need to fill in an application form first and hand it to your local rep. If you are unsure who to contact, please call NIPSA HQ on 02890 661831. Application forms will also be available on the picket line.
What should I do if I am an Agency worker or I work for an organisation that is not part of the action?
If you are an agency or contract worker, you are not part of the industrial action. You may wish to speak to your agency/employer in advance if you feel that the strike action means you may be unable to carry out your normal duties – your duties may be dependent on the attendance of workers who will be on strike. Even if you are not taking part in the strike action, you can still support your striking colleagues. Please don’t undertake any duty of a striking worker unless you are instructed to do so. Please show your support for the pickets on the day and talk to friends and colleagues about the campaign. You could also show your support by writing to your local MP, MLA and councillors and your local paper and by wearing a sticker on 26 July.
What happens after 26 July – will there be more strikes?
NIPSA is willing to try to resolve this dispute but equally our members have made it very clear to us that they are committed to further action, as necessary. The Civil Service Executive committee will meet on 2nd August to review the action and to decide what happens next. Further branch bulletins will be issued.