As you are aware, NIPSA lodged a JTUS Pay Claim in June 2022, jointly with Unite, seeking improved pay, terms and conditions of employment to assist our members working in the NIHE to survive the very damaging cost of living crisis. The devastating impacts of this crisis are ongoing and include financial, physical and psychological trauma. You are telling NIPSA that all of these pressures are increasing the strain and stress being felt by you and your families. Many of you are having to take second and third jobs just to survive, to feed your families, going into debt that you have no idea how or when you will be in a position to afford to pay back and are making sustained difficult choices on whether to heat your homes at a time when extremely wintry weather and plunging temperatures are forecast for this week, or to buy food. You have been sharing with us that this situation is increasingly damaging and NIPSA has been listening.

May I take this opportunity, on behalf of the NIPSA Central Panel, to once again thank all of you who voted in the consultative ballot to reject the NIHE’s “final offer”, which was the NIHE’s response to the JTUS Pay Claim after months of refusal to meaningfully engage with the trade unions. An overwhelming majority of voters also provided NIPSA with the mandate to continue to fight for an improved offer and to undertake a statutory ballot of our members on the subjects of potential Industrial Action and Action short of Strike Action (ASOS).

I have written to the CEO of the NIHE again today to provide the statutory notification required for NIPSA’s ballot, which will be conducted from 14 March 2023 for a two week period. You should receive your ballot paper, together with a note from myself detailing the issues over which we are in dispute with your Employer, shortly after this date. The ballot closes on 29 March 2023 at 12 noon so please ensure that you return your completed ballot in the accompanied pre-paid envelope to the Independent Scrutineer, Civica, to make sure your vote can be counted as a matter of urgency.

This is your critical opportunity to ensure that your Employer hears directly from you that you need an improved pay offer to survive and that you are willing to participate in a creative, intelligent and impactful Campaign strategy to achieve it, if necessary. The campaign is most likely to focus initially on ASOS action to ensure that you do not suffer financially even more at this difficult time. A second round of Branch consultation meetings are being conducted both this and next week.

These are being arranged with each Branch by our new ATUS Secretary, Seana McConville, who is also distributing campaign leaflets and posters for distribution to all NIHE staff buildings. You can find out further information, or obtain posters and leaflets, from either your Branch Committee or directly from Seana. I would encourage all members to attend your Branch meeting to take this valuable opportunity to influence the NIPSA campaign strategy and hear more about what NIPSA is doing to secure an improved offer from your Employer.

In parallel to ballot plans being put in place, NIPSA has continued to engage with the CEO and Director of Corporate Services of the NIHE, both in correspondence and at meetings, to discuss potential solutions to our key demands. Both NIPSA and Unite lead negotiators are keenly focused on, and fully committed, to prioritising continued discussions with the NIHE and making every effort to explore how to end this dispute to your satisfaction - although success will obviously depend on meaningful engagement with Management Side and genuine joint focus on what IS possible rather than what is not.

I had previously written to you to request urgent updating of your membership details, where necessary. Several dozens of you have taken that action, so my thanks to you for that also.

Finally, please look out for your ballot paper arriving via post directly to your home, vote YES for Industrial Action and YES for ASOS action to send a clear message to your Employer that Enough is Enough – it is time to fight back to secure improved pay, terms and conditions of employment via the joint NIPSA/UNITE campaign. Together we can do this and you can benefit.

In solidarity!

Kim Graham
Assistant Secretary and JTUS Lead