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Northern Ireland Fresh Start deal means savage cuts, claims union Nipsa

By Noel McAdam

Northern Ireland's biggest union has warned the Fresh Start deal will "do nothing" for people.

The 40,000-strong NI Public Service Alliance (Nipsa) said yesterday the agreement would hit low-income families with "savage cuts" in benefits and lead to 20,000 lost public sector jobs.

Nipsa general secretary designate Alison Millar added: "It is unbelievable our politicians signed up to this agreement and handed back power to Westminster to allow for the implementation of savage cuts to those most in need."

The union is planning two protests in Belfast and Londonderry on Thursday against the changes.

Ms Millar said: "It is very clear this deal does nothing for public services and those who rely on them. It commits to 20,000 public sector job losses, savage cuts to those in receipt of social security benefits, including low-paid, in-work families and the introduction of a lower rate of 12.5% of corporation tax from April 2018, which will further reduce the block grant by £200m per year.

"There is also no evidence that any jobs will be created, and therefore this will only reward big businesses. In addition, the Northern Ireland Executive is expected to seek to agree a deal of savage cuts to civil and public services with projected cuts of up to 10%."

Her condemnation came after the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (NIC-ICTU) said it "regretted" the failure of the Irish Government to contribute "other than a paltry financial package as a part of this agreement

"[We] expected more from a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement," a statement added.

The trade union said it was essential that the Executive and Assembly remained intact and that a return to Direct Rule "would have unimagined consequences for the most marginalised in our society, as well as for trade unionists".

The NIC-ICTU is opposed to two main planks of the Fresh Start Agreement - the reduction in corporation tax and the plan to shed 20,000 public sector jobs, which was given the go-ahead before the deal was struck.

In their first comprehensive assessment of the agreement between the DUP, Sinn Fein and the British and Irish governments, the NI committee accepted "the validity of the statements made by political parties that they pressed the UK Government for additional financial resources for NI to no avail".

But it added: "A further reduction in the block grant will reduce public service delivery and employment across all sectors. This will also mean severe welfare cuts for the marginalised, which must be mitigated."

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