23 May 2011
As part of a public sector trade union campaign across Britain and Northern Ireland the NIPSA General Council, at its meeting on Friday, 20 May 2011, decided to initiate preparations for a statutory industrial action ballot of all NIPSA members employed in the public sector.
A number of trade unions, including the National Union of Teachers in Britain and PCS the trade union for UK civil servants, are currently balloting their members with a view to taking strike action on 30 June. Other public sector trade unions have indicated that they intend to ballot their members in the autumn for strike action. In Northern Ireland the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has agreed to coordinate the action of all public sector unions and it is envisaged that there will be a coordinated and concerted campaign in the autumn by public sector unions across Great Britain and Northern Ireland to defend the interests of public servants who are under severe attack as the UK Government implements its austerity programme.
The NIPSA General Council has decided that members should be balloted for industrial action on a range of issues which are having an extremely detrimental impact on the interests of every public servant.
The three headings under which NIPSA plans to progress a trade dispute are pensions, staffing cuts and pay freezes.
Reducing the Value of Pensions: The Government has already, unilaterally, changed the mechanism for uprating public service pensions from the Retail Prices Index to the Consumer Prices Index. It is estimated that this will cut the value of pensions by up to 25% over the period of payment of a pension to public servants.
Employee Contributions: The Government plans, with effect from 1 April 2012, to increase employee contributions to their pension schemes by an average of 3%. In essence this means that staff will be paying more and getting less in return.
Scheme Provisions: As a result of the report by Lord Hutton, commissioned by the government, final salary pension schemes for public servants will be abolished and replaced by a new scheme or schemes, the details of which have not been presented. The main purpose of this change is to cut the cost of public sector pensions and public servants will suffer as a result of these changes.
Throughout the public sector in Northern Ireland there have already been major reductions in staffing levels through job losses. Thousands of jobs have been lost due to a combination of the Review of Public Administration and public expenditure cutbacks. These job reductions are due to escalate in 2011 and beyond. The non replacement of jobs, voluntary and compulsory redundancies will mean members who remain at work will be expected to shoulder additional responsibilities and unacceptable work loads and pressures and represents a major threat to the health and safety of public servants.
Public Sector Pay
Every NIPSA member in the public service will have been affected by the Chancellor of the Exchequers two year pay freeze announced in June 2010. This two year pay freeze is a continuation of the unacceptable pay settlements that public servants have been forced to endure for a considerable number of years. The pay freeze comes at a time when inflation is well over 5% and effectively represents a reduction each year in real take home pay. There is no information as to the plans of the Chancellor for 2012 pay and beyond but public servants cannot afford further years of pay freeze and restraint.
The General Council appreciates that many members are concerned about their future employment but would point out that “keeping ones head down” will provide no protection whatsoever. It is much more likely to be the case that there will be greater protection for public sector workers where they are prepared to stand up and actively defend their pensions, jobs and pay.
Branches are requested to convene meetings of members during June as a preparatory step in advance of any industrial action ballot in the autumn. Speakers will be available from NIPSA HQ, the General Council and Executive Committees.
If your branch requires a speaker on these issues please contact Aidan McDonnell at NIPSA HQ 028 9066 1831 or [email protected].