NIPSA met today with unions affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) to discuss coordinated industrial action in September/October in line with NIPSA policy.

Unions representing workers across all employment areas are planning to coordinate action against derisory pay awards and against the cuts set out in the budget by the Secretary of State. The action is likely to involve workers in both the public and private sectors.

There will be another meeting in early September to firm up the details of the action and further posts will follow.

Below is a copy of the press release issued today by the Northern Ireland Committee of ICTU (NIC-ICTU).

Carmel Gates
General Secretary
NI Trade Unions gear up for action for fair wages and fairer financial settlement for Northern Ireland.

Today in Armagh, trade union leaders representing working people in all professions and occupations met to discuss the ongoing squeeze faced by everyone in Northern Ireland compounded by inadequate and insulting pay offers and the financial decisions of the NI Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris MP.

Speaking after the meeting, ICTU Assistant General Secretary Gerry Murphy said:

“The Secretary of State is punishing workers and service users while acting as if he is taking on a recalcitrant political class who refuse to take responsibility themselves in Stormont. This is a cop-out and an abdication of his responsibility when he is de facto direct ruler.

“Every single day brings some petty act of penny pinching in the name of fiscal responsibility. The news headlines are a depressing drumbeat of bad decisions: ‘Patients waiting for days in Emergency Department’; ‘No money for health staff pay rises in NI’; ‘Funding for primary school nurture classes being cut’; ‘Top civil servant says departments have reached cuts limit’; ‘One in six people face hunger in Northern Ireland.’

“We reject the rationale of an alleged ‘overspend’ which must be corrected. The Northern Ireland Fiscal Council stated in their report on public finances in March 2023 that the vast majority of the overspend was made up of ‘pay awards, energy prices and other inflationary pressures’. Inescapable pressures rather than new funding commitments were to blame for the excess of spend. After more than a decade of Tory cuts our society needs more public funding, not less and we will fight to secure the necessary finances to properly fund workers and provide decent public services.

“Northern Ireland departments were set up to fail. They faced massive increases in prices, much smaller increases in resources and also lacked a functioning NI Executive to monitor and redistribute in-year spending. The idea that Northern Ireland needs to be collectively punished for any of these local political circumstances is as erroneous as it is insulting.

“Unions across the public sector and including parts of the private sector are gearing up for a new wave of industrial action this autumn. Many unions have ‘live’ ballots mandating strike action and/or action short of strike. All teaching unions are in this situation, and an increasing number of unions representing health professionals, most of whom have little or no tradition of industrial militancy. They do now, and will be taking strike action in September, possibly being joined by other public sector workers with ‘live’ ballots in the civil service, some district councils and all three levels of the education sector.

“We agree with Mr Heaton Harris about one thing: We should have our NI Executive back and functioning to address these legitimate concerns of hundreds of thousands of workers. This time labour won’t wait. We are taking action to address these wrongs and get justice for our members, their families and their communities.

“Trade unions are not backing down. We demand justice on pay and a financial settlement more broadly which allows us to kick start our stalled economy.”