‘Budget plans would be a disaster ...we’ll fight them at all costs’
The regional secretary of one of Northern Ireland’s biggest unions has branded the Chancellor’s Budget plans as an “outrageous attack on working class people”.
Patricia McKeown of Unison said George Osborne’s proposal to bring the UK’s public sector wages into line with their private sector counterparts would be disastrous for Northern Ireland.
More than 200,000 people are employed in the public sector in Northern Ireland. They are paid 40% more than the average private sector wage.
However, if implemented, the Chancellor’s move would mean an annual pay cut of around £1,000 for the average civil servant.
Ms McKeown described the move as part of the coalition Government’s “race to the bottom”.
“We will resist this at all costs,” she told the Belfast Telegraph on Sunday night. “We fought for years for wages to be brought up to the level of other areas in the UK and we are not going to give that up now. You are talking about cleaners, clerks, refuse collectors. These are not high wages.
“What we are looking at is a wholesale attack, and it’s about driving wages down and money out of the economy.”
She added: “This will be absolutely disastrous for our economy. The shops and other services are reeling from the fact that there’s been a pay freeze for public sector workers for a long period of time.
“If people are not getting the money they won’t spend.
“(As a result) there are not the jobs in the private sector. And what about workers west of the Bann? The Government is talking about bringing (public sector) pay in line with the local economy.
“When I started this job 30 years ago home helps were on half the wages than their counterparts on the eastern seaboard.”
NIPSA general secretary Brian Campfield said the measure would be an attack on all families in Northern Ireland.
He said: “The fact is that the explanation for public sector workers being paid more than those in the private sector is that public sector employees require higher qualifications.
“The public sector includes doctors, nurses, social workers, teachers, architects and engineers.
“Northern Ireland also has more small and medium-sized businesses and they do not pay as much as the bigger private companies.”