Any pay negotiations for our beleaguered civil service staff have been put on hold until there is some sort of certainty over the budget that Northern Ireland has to play with. The budget is very much up in the air at this present time, the UK government have offered an overall figure of £3.3 billion, as we mentioned in our previous blog. That figure includes £600 million which has been earmarked for public sector pay. However this figure will only be available once the Executive is back and operational in Stormont.
The DUP have ruled out any possibility of a deal being brokered before Christmas, also Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has said that there will be no more talks even though the deal that has been offered but has so far been declined is still on the table.
2022 Pay Award Well Below Inflation Rate
The 2022 pay award received by public sector workers was well below the rate of inflation for the vast majority of them, so unsurprisingly they want a new pay deal which will give them some money back in their pockets. In fact official figures suggest that public sector pay fell by over 7% in real terms last year, a pretty significant fall. And the longer this dispute goes on the more damage the strikes will do to the services they provide and the people who rely on them.
Neil Gibson, the permanent secretary at the Department of Finance, is quoted in an article on the BBC News website as saying:
“You will be aware of the current political talks that are ongoing.
“Public sector pay is a significant aspect of those talks.
“We all hope these can conclude successfully and provide clarity on the way forward for NI Civil Service pay as well as for our public sector colleagues.”
Staff Are Struggling With The Cost Of Living
Mr Gibson acknowledged the difficulties some civil servants were facing, saying: “I know staff are struggling with the cost of living, I know certain parts of our service are facing retention difficulties and I know the uncertainty about pay creates difficulties for colleagues in planning their finances.”
Unfortunately, as there seems no sign of the deadlock being broken in bringing all the political leaders back to Stormont, the money that the UK government have promised will remain on the table but still tantalisingly out of reach, meaning the strikes are likely to drag on well into the New Year.