Sinn Fein has ended its long-standing equal pay policy for party workers, claiming new financial regulations at Stormont have rendered the practice impossible.
The republican party has traditionally paid the average industrial wage – currently around £26,000 – to all its staff in Northern Ireland, be they elected representatives or office workers.
While its 28 MLAs will continue to get that wage – with the rest of their salaries diverted to central party funds – around 70 of its Assembly staff are now set for a pay cut.
The party claims new rules introduced by the body that sets pay and expenses at Stormont, the Independent Financial Review Panel (IFRP), has forced the change in policy.
Under the latest IFRP report published in March, a banded salary scale has been introduced for staff employed by the parties.
The employees will also now be paid directly by the Assembly, rather than as a proportion of an individual MLA’s total office costs allowance.
Many Sinn Fein staffers have been angered by the pay cuts and other related changes to their employment conditions, with some anticipated to leave their jobs before the new Assembly gets up and running.
A Sinn Fein spokesman said: “Sinn Fein has had a long-standing wage policy to ensure all full-time staff and elected representatives are treated equally with regard to pay.
“This was done with the goodwill of all involved and in accordance with the rules of the various institutions and in compliance with all legal obligations.
“Recent changes in the northern Assembly mean this is no longer possible.
“We are implementing the new regulations set down by the Independent Financial Review Panel.
“We have concerns about the implications of these regulations for workers’ terms and conditions including maternity/paternity and sick leave.”