Projected Public Sector Job Losses in Northern Ireland

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19 January 2012

Many of you will have read the exchanges in the media between the Finance Minister and the trade union movement in respect of the controversy about projected public service job losses in Northern Ireland. 

ICTU is seeking a meeting with the Finance Minister to discuss the matter. 

Please see attached press statement which was issued yesterday by the ICTU.

Brian Campfield

General Secretary

18 January 2012


The Irish Congress of Trade Unions responds to the intemperate and fact-free remarks of the Northern Ireland Finance Minister Sammy Wilson. 

In an interview with the Irish News, Minister Wilson suggested that the trade unions “shut up” with “scaremongering” figures of almost 26,000 job losses across the public sector between now and 2017. 

The Minister stated that the unions “haven’t a clue where it is coming from”. On a step-by-step basis, here are the sources of the statistics and the methodology used by researchers in the Trades Union Congress (TUC): 

(1) The overall figure of 710,000 public sector job losses comes from the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR), which was established in 2010 to provide independent and authoritative analysis of the UK’s public finances. 

“Government’s decision to pencil in further spending cuts in 2015-16 and 2016-17 implies a reduction in total paybill growth for those years. Combining these with our paybill per head assumption implies a total reduction in GGE (General Government Employment) of around 710,000 between the first quarter of 2011 and the first of 2017” 

OBR, Economic and Fiscal Outlook, November 2011

(2) Northern Ireland (page 27 of this Public sector Employment report from the ONS ) accounts for 3.7% of all UK public sector employment (not seasonally adjusted). 

The TUC allocated all of the 710,000 job losses proportionately to each region. 

(3) The TUC then looked at regional labour markets to get total employment, using the December labour market Report here - - page 44) 

This gives Northern Ireland’s employment (private and public sector) as 804,000.  The impact of circa 26,000 job losses is 3.2% of this – which is the largest proportional hit in the UK. 

(4) Going back to the public sector employment data (page 27 again -

We see that in the past year (till September 2011, the most up to date data the ONS have, we will get December 2011 figures in February) we see that public sector employment in Northern Ireland fell by 4,000 over the year and by 5,000 over the quarter. 

Caveat to this all – The TUC allocated the 710,000 job losses proportionately across the UK and did not adjust that for any specific policies from any of the devolved nations. 

However, the point of the ICTU statement was that the NI Executive’s policies are not up to the task of coping with job losses on this scale. As ICTU Assistant General Secretary Peter Bunting originally commented: 

“The draft Programme for Government pledges to ‘promote’ 25,000 new jobs. This analysis proves the inadequacy of that modest ambition.  Even if achieved, the PfG target will run a thousand jobs short of the expected cull in public sector jobs.” 

Speaking today, Mr Bunting said: “The trade unions are not interested in a pointless rhetorical bun-fight with Sammy Wilson. We are interested in the NI Executive formulating policies which are humane and evidence-based. 

“It is worrying that the Finance Minister claims that ‘we actually have more jobs in the public sector than last year’. This however is contradicted not only by the ONS, but in the Labour Market Report issued today by the Dept. of Finance & Personnel.

On page 13, Table 11 shows that in September 2010 there were 219,820 public sector workers in NI, and 215,970 in September 2011. 

“In the past year we have lost 4,000 public sector jobs in Northern Ireland, despite the wishful thinking of the Minister, and if he has a problem with that evidence, he should take it up with his own department. 

“One of the great achievements of the NI Civil Service is the quality and professionalism of their research, and their willingness to make public the facts of our society and economy, despite attempts to spin the evidence in press releases and briefings by Ministers and their Special Advisors.

“We would encourage journalists and all interested members of the public to read what is freely available on government websites and decide for themselves who is scaremongering and who is throwing up flak.

“We urge the NI Executive to develop policies, based on the best available evidence, which can act as a realistic counter to the austerity ideology of the Chancellor. If Ministers feel upset at the fiscal situation they are in, they should turn their anger on the persons and policies which are really responsible for state we are in.

“We will be corresponding with Minister Wilson, seeking a meeting on this and other matters.”

John O’Farrell

Communications Officer, NIC-ICTU 


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