NIPSA has called for the decision to close 4 remaining Electoral Offices in Banbridge, Derry/Londonderry, Newtownabbey and Omagh to be reversed to protect jobs and services in rural communities.

It was with disbelief that the Permanent Secretary of Department of Finance (DoF) announced late on Thursday evening last week that she had decided the Public Sector Pay Policy for all public sector organisations for 2018/19.  This was done without any consultation with NIPSA or the other trade unions across all areas of the public sector.

It is deplorable that our members in the Health Service on Agenda for Change pay heard via the media of the impact that this policy would mean for them.  This was despite the Trade Unions, including NIPSA having been engaged for many months on pay for members in our Health Service.  Members of all Trade Unions and Staff Side Organisations representing members in Health were engaged in a consultation exercise to consider a formal ballot for industrial action - it is a cynical attempt by the Permanent Secretaries of Health and Finance that our members learned through the media of the proposed settlement for Health Workers.  Despite what the media reported for many members the pay increase is 1.5% not the headlined 3%.  Our members on Agenda for Change pay are angry at how they have been treated and will not be bought off by the attempts to fool them into accepting a below inflation pay increase.  Our members demand full pay restoration.  It is totally unacceptable that our members receive thousands of pounds less than a person doing exactly the same job in the rest of the UK.  This issue must be addressed now.  A separate bulletin will be issued to members in the Health Service following the outcome of the member consultation ballot which closed on Friday 23 November 2018.

Members in the NICS are also expressing their anger and dismay at how they have been treated - it is not acceptable that the Permanent Secretary has stated that civil servants pay will be capped at 1% and that she is now asking the NICS to submit their pay remit to enter into pay negotiations with TUS.  Our members in the NICS have suffered significant pay cuts over the last number of years and our pay claim of 7% is fully justified.  It is therefore not something we can tolerate and our NICS Executive Committee will be considering what actions we need to take to defend our hard working members who have suffered cuts both in terms of take home pay and additional workloads as a result of the Voluntary Exit Scheme which resulted in over 3,200 civil servants leaving the service.  The work they did has remained and is being picked up by those left behind.  It is therefore not acceptable that the Permanent Secretary, without any consultation or negotiation with NIPSA, decided to impose this unacceptable public sector pay policy.  NIPSA will be seeking a meeting with the Permanent Secretary and her officials to engage on this specific issue.

I appreciate this has come as a shock to members and NIPSA will resist any imposition on members which will further erode living standards.  Meetings will take place over the coming weeks to discuss this in more detail with members and representatives.

Alison Millar

General Secretary

This afternoon’s budget statement was predated by Theresa May’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference in which she stated that “a decade after the financial crash people need to know that the austerity it led to is over and that their hard work has paid off.” Despite the noise around such a “promise”, the debate about the longer-term implications of Brexit and the precariousness of the Government itself it is important to focus on the bigger picture and to assess today’s rhetoric against the material reality in which our members and their families are living.

NIPSA’s largest public sector trade union highlights and condemns the huge expenditure across the civil and public service on employing agency workers. It is clear that profiteering recruitment agencies are the only winners in our underfunded public services.

NIPSA General Secretary, Alison Millar, commented:

“NIPSA has continued to highlight how, as our members struggle through almost a decade of austerity during which we are told “there is no money”, tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money continues to be paid to private sector employment agencies. This overpriced “sticking plaster” fails to deal with the real crisis in our public services – low pay, staff shortages and job insecurity. These flow from a consistent failure of central and devolved governments to undertake the appropriate long-term approach to planning and investment.

Whilst discussion of public finance is dominated by declarations that ‘we can’t afford’ to invest more in public services, our research shows that a vast amount of public money is spent on the deployment of agency staff – including exorbitant management fees being paid out to private sector employment agencies. This is a failure of manpower planning and an indictment of the failure to address severe staffing shortages across the public sector. This is shown most clearly in those areas that have supposedly come through their latest reform phase: the Civil Service, for example, (with fewer Departments and after a Voluntary Exit Scheme) still spends over £11 million a year on agency staff; local government post-RPA has spent well over £50 million since 2014 whilst Health and Social Care, in which there are hundreds of long-term vacancies, had a non-medical agency spend of over £200 million between 2010/11-2015/6.

As well as a scandal of under-investment the delivery model this has created within our public services is one built on employment insecurity, low pay and reduced employment rights. NIPSA’s opposition to this therefore will be to not only challenge the ideologically driven casualisation of our public services but also to continue to campaign for the reform of our labour laws in order to give the fullest employment protection for all workers (however recruited) who carry out the vital work of delivering our public services.

Latest NIPSA Research Publication

The hollowing out of our public services by privatisation and under-investment are issues we, as a union, have to constantly address. This casualisation is demonstrated by the consistent failure at all levels of Government and across all sectors to deal appropriately with the issue of staffing levels/permanent recruitment. Instead a more incoherent and expensive route of using private sector employment agencies is chosen. Our latest research that shows the scale and cost of this ideological choice, download a copy of the full publication Agency Boom in the Age of Austerity an executive summary is also available to download click here.

The extent, cost and rights of agency workers deployed across the public services was debated at NIPSA’s Annual Delegate Conference today. NIPSA General Secretary, Alison Millar, commented:

“NIPSA has continued to highlight how, as our members struggle through almost a decade of austerity during which we are told “there is no money”, tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money continues to be paid to private sector employment agencies. This overpriced “sticking plaster” fails to deal with the real crises in our public services – low pay, staff shortages and job insecurity. These flow from a consistent failure of central and devolved governments to undertake the appropriate long-term approach to planning and investment.