UNISON Northern Ireland



“Statements by the Secretary of State, Chris Heaton-Harris, concerning public sector pay are misleading at worst and disingenuous at best”, said Gerry Murphy, Assistant General Secretary of NIC-ICTU.

“Last week saw significant disruption to ports and food producers when NIPSA members in the Veterinary Service Animal Health Group (VSAHG) started a week’s strike action. We welcome the fact that the Secretary of State has agreed to meet with VSAHG and their union to find a way forward. However he has said that he has no power to set public sector pay in Northern Ireland”.

“The Secretary of State sets the budget for Northern Ireland. That budget determines the parameters of the negotiations on public sector pay. So for him to wash his hands of the current pay disputes is a mealymouthed obfuscation”

“The Permanent Secretary of the Department of Finance reinforced this when he published the derisory offer on civil service pay in January this year*. He said that he wished “the pay offer could have gone much further” but that he was “constrained by the very difficult budgetary position”. That budgetary position was set by the Secretary of State and therefore the responsibility for these disputes lies very much at his door.

“Someone needs to make a decision, continued Mr Murphy. “This fiction that no-one can make a pay offer in Northern Ireland such as we have seen in other regions of the UK is a nonsense”

“Of course we would prefer to be negotiating with devolved ministers, but in their absence, the responsibility lies with the Secretary of State”

“He needs to drop the performance and get real about resolving these disputes.”