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On 30th November some of our local politicians in the Assembly parties will undoubtedly turn up to express their support for the public servants on strike.
Some have already publicly expressed their support of the action. A number of politicians have stated that they will support the strike if it is directed at the Westminster Government but not if it is directed at the NI Assembly or the Executive. Branches may wish to consider the following response if any of our local politicians, councillors, MPs or MLAs attend picket lines or demonstrations.
Firstly the main responsibility for the attacks on public service pensions, pay freezes and public services rests with the coalition government at Westminster and the strike on 30th November is part of a UK wide action to force the UK Government to change course.
The NI Executive in our view has not done nearly enough to fight for an adequate public spending settlement for Northern Ireland. In October 2010 the First/Deputy First Minister and Finance Minister in NI issued a declaration along with their devolved counterparts in Scotland and Wales to the effect that the Comprehensive Spending Plans for the next 4 years would do significant social and economic harm to the devolved regions. Yet nothing has happened to change this and the Executive appears to have ceased thinking about any campaign to up the ante over the Westminster imposed cuts.
The Assembly and the Executive appears to have accepted that there is nothing more can be done and that they will have to live with what London has given them. Unfortunately this leaves our local politicians in a position where they will implement the cuts even if for some they are implemented with reluctance. That may be so but NIPSA and the trade unions still have a responsibility to defend its members’ jobs, pensions and pay as well as defending public services.
It is a fact of life that on these issues we will have no choice but to disagree and to come into conflict. They have chosen to implement the cuts and we have chosen to resist them. That’s the long and the short of things.
Without any consultation the NI Executive decided to adopt the changes to public service pensions. They have been told by the UK Treasury that the block grant will be reduced by the appropriate amount if additional contributions for public service workers towards their pensions are not submitted to HMT. While there are legitimate issues relating to parity one would have thought it would have made sense to consult with the trade unions before such a decision was made. Last week in response to a statement by NIPSA in the media the education Minister stated he was prepared to consider exempting teachers earning under £32,000 from any additional contributions. However this is only one group of public servants and the initiative appeared as a belated response to the trade union campaign.
In response to politicians especially those whose parties from the NI Executive we should make the following points:
While their support is welcome they should know that NIPSA will oppose any attempts by the NI Executive or individual government ministers in Northern Ireland to cut public service provision, destroy public sector jobs or undermine our pay, pensions or other terms and conditions.
We are opposed to any privatisation of services in any part of the public service and we want them to give a commitment to oppose privatisation even if a Minister from their own party is supporting any proposed privatisation.
If their party has representatives at Westminster we would expect them to vote against any cuts to public spending and any legislative measures to worsen pensions, make people work longer before receiving a pension and vote against any diminution of employment protection rights.
We also expect them to oppose the planned changes to the benefits system which will make people and families on benefit considerably worse off and remove £500m per annum from the Northern Ireland economy.
Their Westminster MPs should as a matter of practice consult with the trade union movement in Northern Ireland on issues being decided by the UK Parliament.
There should be a debate in the NI Assembly on the austerity policies of the UK Government with a view to adopting a resolution condemning these policies AND agreeing to plan a strategy whereby the Assembly can build a campaign to force the UK Government to change course.