Belfast Telegraph

Stalemate could cost Northern Ireland public sector staff pay rise

By Suzanne Breen

Ulster Unionist MLA Steve Aiken has warned that public sector workers in Northern Ireland could miss out on the latest pay rise due to the ongoing stalemate at Stormont.

He said that tens of thousands of state employees will probably not secure an increase in wages because no ministers are in place to sign off on any decision.

The South Antrim representative was speaking after an announcement in Parliament of a pay rise of an average 2% for more than one million public sector workers in England and Wales.

Mr Aiken said: "I have long argued that the 1% public sector pay cap across the UK needed to be lifted. It caused a significant fall in the real terms salary of public sector workers and undoubtedly greatly affected morale across the workforce.

"Last year Theresa May made the welcome announcement that she was at last going to lift the 1% cap, and since then key public sector workers such as police officers, prison staff and health workers, and now teachers and members of the armed forces across England and Wales have all been awarded increases in their pay.

"Yet as public sector pay is mainly a devolved issue locally, and as there are no ministers in place to take a decision or sign off on any major increases, it seems inevitable that once again most workers in Northern Ireland will miss out." Mr Aiken said he had written to the new permanent secretary at the Department of Finance, Sue Gray, asking her what she planned to do to resolve the "deepening pay gap" between public sector workers here and in Britain.

"To those political parties that think their politicking and posturing is having little impact on the lives of local people, this is just the latest example of how they are sorely mistaken," the UUP MLA said.

He continued: "Whilst this latest pay increase may come from existing budgets, for others this hasn't been the case.

"In fact, the major increase in pay announced in March of over 6% for NHS workers for England and Wales, was entirely new money.

"Whilst that has meant more money coming to Northern Ireland through the Barnett funding system, there is no suggestion at all that the money will be used to pay for a similar pay increase here and instead I suspect it will simply be used to fill the black hole in local finances."

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