Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland civil servants to hold protest at own event in dispute over pay

Action: Carmel Gates
Action: Carmel Gates

By David O'Dornan

Northern Ireland's largest trade union is to launch a two-pronged action over civil servant pay with a one-hour strike and a protest at an awards bash at Stormont next week.

Nipsa, which has more than 41,000 members, says the strike on Thursday is a gesture to make its point on wages.

Later that evening the union will stage a demonstration at an event handing out prizes as it says staff have asked for pay awards instead.

Deputy general secretary Carmel Gates, who has strategic responsibility for civil service-wide issues on pay, said: "The day before is the November pay day so it's a reminder every month for people how little their pay has increased in the last 10 years.

"But the 28th is also the day of the NICS Awards, as it's called - so there's an awards ceremony that happens on a yearly basis where senior civil servants dress up in their finery and go to the Long Gallery and they present awards to staff.

"Now the awards are varied, but normally they are for staff who have been nominated either by colleagues or by line managers for providing a good service.

"But this year, because people are in dispute over pay, many essentially feel if the management side really cared about rewarding staff then they would pay them a fair amount of money."

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Mrs Gates said her members will hand out leaflets at the protest outside the awards ceremony, which she called a "slap in the face" as it is being held despite the stand-off over pay.

"The leaflet we've produced is cashing in on the fact that we're in the mouth of an election, we've said 'rewards for the many and not awards for the few'," she said. "What we're saying is every civil servant provides a good service. There's awards for the various aspects and strands of civil service work, the stuff that we do each and every day and we do well each and every day.

"So we feel it's like a slap in the face to bring a select group of staff to the Long Gallery in Stormont and hand them a certificate instead of paying them a decent wage.

"So the one-hour strike is a gesture to mark that event and coming as it does the day after pay day it is a two-pronged one."

A Department of Finance spokesperson said: "The NICS Awards recognise, celebrate and promote the service, dedication and achievements of staff at all grades right across the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

"Over 500 award nominations were received for this year's awards with the vast majority of nominations coming from staff below Senior Civil Service level. The large number of nominations reflect the importance of the awards to the NICS."

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