Belfast Telegraph

Cash injection hopes as civil servants get £150m in back-pay

By Noel McAdam

Northern Ireland’s hard-hit economy is in line for a potential £150m injection as back-pay lump sums begin to land in the pay packets of thousands of civil servants.

Many of the low-paid female workers who have got payments back-dated for up to six years are expected to use the cash windfalls to pay off debts.

But the long-planned projects of many others — including holidays and household building schemes — will finally also be able to come to fruition.

The lump sums were in around 8, 500 pay packets in the last week out of a total payout affecting almost 14,500 mostly administrative officers and assistants in the months ahead.

At the upper end of the pay settlement, administrative officers with over six years’ service are due to be paid a net sum of almost £14,000, and administrative assistants with six years’ service in the region £10,000.

One woman said she planned to use the money to pay off her credit cards and give back cash owed to her husband.

“But I also want to use the money to pay for driving lessons and, if there is enough left, get a wee car,” she said.

Another said the cash would go on the holiday-of-a-lifetime to the United States. “I have always wanted to go to San Francisco, it has been my ambition,” she told the Belfast Telegraph. And a third said: “My plan is to use it for a deposit on a house, though I haven’t finally decided I am going to move.” A senior adviser with independent financial consultants ASM Horwath said: “A lot of people in Northern Ireland don’t like to have debt around them and at this time of year may have tended to run up a wee bit of debt.

“There are those who will see it as a windfall, and go for a holiday, but many others will say ‘well, you don’t know what is round the corner’, and tend to keep it for a rainy day.”

Kieran Bannon of the main Civil Service union, the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA), said: “These are people who have been among the low paid for years, in some cases only earning slightly more than the national minimum wage, and some who had to take two jobs to make ends meet.”

The issue of back-pay was finally recognised by then Secretary of State Peter Hain, but later fell to the devolved administration to sort out the payments.

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