A £1,000 pay rise for Stormont MLAs has been branded a slap in the face for striking public sector workers.
People Before Profit leader Gerry Carroll criticised the introduction of a number of stalled salary increases for members that had been on hold while devolution was suspended.
The Assembly has confirmed that the rises came into effect when powersharing returned, resulting in the annual MLA salary rising from £49,500 to £50,500.
MLAs’ pay was cut by a third during the political impasse, with the Government responding to public anger that members were on full pay despite not sitting in the devolved legislature to which they had been elected.
Mr Carroll, an MLA for west Belfast, criticised the move as he highlighted recent industrial action taken by healthcare staff and other public sector workers to demand better pay.
The PBP leader only takes home around half of his entitled salary, with the remainder being diverted into party funds.
“The fact that MLAs are back in post just over a week and are having their wages topped up will no doubt come as a slap in the face to nurses who stood on freezing pickets for months for pay parity, and the Civil Service staff who are still taking industrial action to get what they deserve,” said Mr Carroll.
“People Before Profit have always advocated for MLAs to be paid an average worker’s wage – it’s what I take home.
“How can MLAs receive a salary that is around double the average wage and claim to competently represent their constituents’ interests when their financial realities are so different?”
An Assembly spokeswoman said: “Following the formation of an Executive on 11 January 2020, the full provisions of the Assembly Members (Salaries and Expenses) Determination (Northern Ireland) 2016 are in effect, including the provisions for an annual uprating.”
She added: “The current annual salary payable as a member is £50,500.”
A Sinn Fein spokesperson said: “MLAs’ pay is set by an independent body, not by MLAs.
“MLAs had no input into this decision, nor did they seek it.”
SDLP Assembly member Pat Catney said he was offering to donate his pay increase to a counselling service.
He said: “I don’t think it’s appropriate for me or any MLA to take a pay rise when people in my constituency are struggling and MLAs have only just returned to Stormont.
“I am making the offer to donate my pay increase to Emerge Counselling Services in Lisburn.”