Members may be aware of the recent debate in the NI Assembly regarding the above matter. The debate was generated by questions put to the Minister for Finance and Personnel, Mervyn Storey by Ms Dolores Kelly MLA and Mr Jim Allister MLA. The questions were:
- Whether provisions will be made in the 2016/17 Budget for the release of moneys to settle equal pay claims for civilian staff in the Department of Justice; and
- Why there has been no progress on the Civil Service equal pay claim for PSNI, Northern Ireland Office and Department of Justice office.
Among his responses to members in the House during the debate the Minister stated -
“I cannot get away from the court judgement on the issue. After the issue was taken to the courts, a particular ruling was made. There is also an issue with the particular pressure that we are under, given the financial position.”
“The member will appreciate that I have just taken up post. The matter is in my in tray and I am well aware that it needs to be revisited. I give the House a commitment that I will endeavour to pursue this over the coming weeks.”
Mr Storey went on to say,
“There is always an issue in relation to risk when you come to the payment of an issue like this. As these staff suffered no equal pay detriment during their service, there is, as we have repeatedly said, no legal liability. In addition, it is not possible to construct a business case for a payment for the moral argument. That is within the terms of ‘Managing Public Money NI’. Therefore, any payment would be highly vulnerable both to judicial review and to criticism by various audit bodies, including the PAC. An ex gratia payment cannot be made without legal cover and that would need to be put in place. If payment were to be made to those staff, other staff in different grades or organisations may feel that they also had a moral right to such a payment, even though they were also unaffected by the Northern Ireland Civil Service pay settlement. NICS staff may become unhappy with the original equal pay settlement, especially if different amounts or grades receive payment and this could result in a new group of disaffected staff.”
Contrary to the Minister’s comments NIPSA believe that the NI civil servants working in the PSNI and DOJ/former NIO did suffer an equal pay detriment during their service.
As the Minister has indicated he will endeavour to pursue the matter over the coming weeks, NIPSA will renew the outstanding request to meet with the Finance Minister, that was issued to his predecessor, Arlene Foster in December 2015.
NIPSA has also written to all MLAs, asking for an indication of their position and confirmation that their Minister(s) will support the allocation of funding to settle the matter when it is fully and properly considered by the NI Executive.
Assistant General Secretary