Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has strongly denied discriminating against retired civil servants over the multi-million pound backpay deal.
As the Belfast Telegraph revealed yesterday, more than 460 former public servants claim they have been excluded from the £150m payouts due to begin next month.
The pensioners argue that while payments were backdated to 2003, only staff who retired after 2008 are being given compensation, with those who left before that date left in limbo.
But Mr Wilson, who declined to meet the aggrieved senior citizens, strongly refuted the allegations and insisted a meeting would not serve “to progress matters any further”.
The DUP minister said the settlement, which will see lump sum payouts of up to £14,000, probably from next month, was the product of long and detailed negotiations with the main union, the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA) and approved by the Executive.
A spokesperson for Mr Wilson’s department added yesterday: “Under equal pay legislation, former employees have six months from the date of leaving their employment within which to lodge an equal pay claim against a former employer. An equal pay claim lodged outside this period is not valid.”
But Ivan Baxter, honorary secretary of the NI branch of the
Civil Service Pensioners Alliance, said: “Pensioners cannot strike, work to rule or go on a go-slow. They are easy targets who rely by and large on being treated decently by society. The cost of settling with the pensioners would be minimal compared with the total sum about to be paid out to serving officers.”
And he argued the decision flies in the face of age discrimination legislation, and Stormont’s own plans for an Older People’s Commissioner. “They have said they want to look after older people but here is a real situation involving older people and it is just being set aside,” he added.
“Mr Wilson refused point-blank to meet us and did not even offer a meeting with his departmental officials. So much for easy access to local ministers.”