In my last article I reported the outcome of the industrial action ballot on pay. The answer given by our members was clear and forceful. A 94% yes vote for action short of strike action and an 85% yes vote for strike action demonstrates the anger members feel about the derisory offer.

Current Political Situation

The Civil Service Executive Committee met on Friday for an initial discussion and again today to discuss the next steps. The Executive Committee considered the current political situation and the absence of an Assembly to make decisions on the budget or to affect change. As things stand, it is not entirely clear when an Assembly may be back in place.

Senior Civil Servants are working to a budget that is the product of decisions made by the Secretary of State and the Northern Ireland Office. You will recall that the Secretary of State made cuts of £millions in response to what he called an overspend by former ministers. It appears that Senior Civil Servants do not have the power to increase the money available for pay or other priorities.

With that in mind, I have now written twice to the Secretary of State asking for a meeting to discuss pay. I had an acknowledgement to the first letter but no reply to either.

In these circumstances, the Civil Service Executive Committee agreed that any progress on pay is likely to take significant, accumulated pressure. This means we need to have a different strategic focus for an enduring campaign directed at the Tories and the Secretary of State for now. It is also important that we have discussions and explore the scope for joint action with other unions who are also in dispute over pay.

Industrial Action

The Civil Service Executive Committee is committed to an intelligent strategy that can include strike action, action short of strike action and targeted action. The Executive Committee has, therefore, decided that our action should commence with Action Short of Strike Action from 15 March 2023. That date has been chosen as it is the day the Chancellor will announce the Spring Budget. It is also the day that hundreds of thousands of workers in Britain, in both the public and private sector, will take action.

Action Short of Strike Action

The action short of strike action will be continuous and will take the form of members taking the following action:

  1. Refusing to undertake the work of vacant posts and absent colleagues;
  2. Refusing to undertake any voluntary duties;
  3. Taking proper breaks (i.e. tea breaks and lunch breaks); and
  4. Only working the hours you are paid for.
Protest on Budget Day, 15 March

On budget day, Wednesday 15 March, there will be a protest at from 12.30 – 1.30pm at the office of the Secretary of State, Erskine House, 20-32 Chichester Street, Belfast. We will hand a third letter to the Secretary of State. Please join the protest.

Strike Action by Museum Members, 17 March

As well as the action above, members in the Folk and Transport Museum in Cultra, will take strike action on 17 March. St Patrick’s day is one of the busiest days in the year and this major tourist attraction always receives record bookings for that date. This will be the first, strategic strike action by NIPSA members in this campaign and we are grateful to our members in that branch. We would ask members to show their full support for them by joining their picket line on the day. Details will follow.

Future Action

These are only the first steps in our programme of action. We will keep the action short of strike action and strike action under review and consider changes and escalations when appropriate.

The Executive Committee will continue to assess the political situation. We will continue discussions with our sister unions in the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and continue to work together with them for joint action.

If you have any questions in relation to this article, please contact your branch secretary.

Carmel Gates
General Secretary