Members were advised that the Civil Service Group Executive Committee was meeting yesterday and would consider recent developments on the NI Civil Service 2015 pay arrangements.
Prior to entering pay negotiations members were advised of the difficulty to be faced with the backdrop of the Treasury 1% pay remit limit and the extensive cut in Departmental budgets leading to the Voluntary Exit Scheme. In responding to Trade Union Side’s presentation of the pay claim at the commencement of the negotiations, NICS Management inevitably referred to the public expenditure landscape. While recognising the rationale underpinning the 2015 NICS pay claim, NICS Management said it was not possible to implement a settlement on that basis as the increase to the pay bill would exceed the Treasury remit, which the NI Executive had agreed in principle and it would also completely negate the NICS pay bill reduction emanating from the Voluntary Exit Scheme.
Trade Union Side argued that in formulating and submitting the pay claim, NIPSA had considered all relevant factors, not just the public expenditure climate, for example:
- successive annual increases to pension contributions
- former below inflation rate pay settlements
- the imposition of the 2014 NICS pay arrangements
- the growing number of staff on pay scale maxima (currently 52% and rising)
- the significant number of staff who, for some years, have attracted only a non-consolidated payment.
Meeting with the Minister
As indicated in the Bulletin issued last Monday, a NIPSA delegation met with the Finance and Personnel Minister, Arlene Foster at which the basis justifying the pay claim was presented. While repeating the points relating to VES pay bill savings and the Treasury 1% remit limit, the Minister appeared to acknowledge the points made by NIPSA in particular the low morale resulting from current pressures and the lack of proper pay rises. The meeting concluded with the Minister indicating that she wished to reflect on the representations made.
In subsequent negotiations, NICS Management indicated that the Treasury limit had been exceeded where a contractual entitlement existed or where increased productivity had resulted, the NI Water dispute being an example given. They stated that the Minister was prepared to consider a modest consolidated increase but this would have to be based on changes to a number of terms and conditions. These were presented in the negotiations on a without prejudice basis, a number of which members have in the past sought to resist.
In considering the issues tabled by NICS Management, the Civil Service Group Executive Committee completely ruled out a number. The Trade Union Side was however authorised to have further exploratory discussions to establish if the necessary protections for members could be secured relating to other areas that might facilitate a consolidated increase as part of a pay offer. This did not prove possible and the consolidated element would, in any event, have been below 1% compared to the 2.5% contained in the NIPSA pay claim submitted following consultation with members. For this reason NICS Management was advised that Trade Union Side would not engage further on these matters and NIPSA remained committed to securing the justifiable pay claim submitted. The response to this was the Minister’s decision to implement the arrangements circulated to staff last week.
At its meeting on Monday, the Civil Service Group Executive was particularly concerned that this is the second year in succession that the NICS pay arrangements have been imposed. In addition, the majority of NICS staff are now receiving only a non-consolidated payment, which for this year is also non-pensionable. This cadre of staff is growing as more staff progress to their pay scale maxima.
There are a number of other developments about to impact on members for example an increase in National Insurance contributions i.e. a rise in the employee contribution rate of 1.4% and the recent announcement of further budgetary cuts of between 5% and 10%. Added to this is the increased pressure on those staff remaining in the NICS, from workloads associated to posts vacated by those leaving service under the VES scheme.
The Civil Service Group Executive Committee believe that our response to the treatment of members on pay cannot be considered in isolation of the broader effect of the NI Executive’s austerity measures some of which are referred to above. For that reason the Civil Service Group Executive wish to engage with members in building a more comprehensive strategy in response to the imposition of the pay arrangements, the pressure faced by members through unacceptable workloads and the further impending excessive cuts to Departmental budgets.
Such a response requires the active participation of the general body of NIPSA members not just branch representatives. A series of membership meetings are shortly to be arranged to ensure that every member has the opportunity to influence the future course of action to be developed. In that context we must be conscious of the impending local elections where, as citizens, we will each be canvassed by political representatives. It is important in building a strategy that members are equipped to challenge those seeking election. A number of these individuals will be elected to positions in which they will take decisions affecting your future as a public servant, as a citizen and as a recipient of public services.
Assistant General Secretary