Public service unions in Northern Ireland have greeted Nick Clegg’s dismissal of regional pay for public sector workers with scepticism.
During a school visit in London, the Deputy Prime Minister said the idea of “local” pay was simply being looked at and “nothing has been decided”.
In March’s Budget, Chancellor George Osborne sparked fury among public sector unions when he announced moves towards introducing different levels of pay in regions of the UK.
Mr Clegg stated: “There is going to be no regional pay system.
“That is not going to happen. No decisions have been taken.
“All that has been asked is something which happened under the last Government — they did it in the Crown Court Service — which is: ‘Is there, in specific cases, a justification to allow local, not regional, local market-based costs to be reflected in the way people are paid in the public sector?'.
“It is being looked at. Nothing has been decided. I feel very, very strongly as an MP from South Yorkshire with a lot of people in the public services, that we are not going to do anything which exacerbates a north-south divide.”
Bumper Graham from Nipsa said the plans should be scrapped.
“We are sceptical about Nick Clegg’s comments because the Government produced evidence in the last couple of weeks to the health pay review body making the case for regional pay,” Mr Graham said.
“So while the Deputy Prime Minister might say it’s not their intention, is he really speaking for the rest of the Government?”
Unison official Patricia McKeown said: “I do note it was Nick Clegg saying it, and not George Osborne of David Cameron.
“The single biggest loser would be people in Northern Ireland, because we have the lowest wages in the UK.”
Public sector workers have nationally agreed rates of pay, meaning employees in different parts of the UK earn roughly the same, except for the ‘London weighting'. Regional pay scales would mean bringing public sector salary rates more closely into line with regional private sector pay. This is likely to lead to a cut in public sector pay rates in Northern Ireland.