Civil servants’ strike makes widespread disruption inevitable, warns union

DUP MP Sammy Wilson stressed that the NI bloc grant is 'fixed'
DUP MP Sammy Wilson stressed that the NI bloc grant is 'fixed'
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A strike by civil service staff later this month could cause disruption in agriculture, benefit payments, the road network, courts and the economy, the trade union Nipsa has said.

Civil servants are due to take part in a full-day strike on July 26 over a below-inflation 1.25% pay offer and objections to certain terms and conditions, with further industrial action to follow.

Nipsa deputy general secretary Carmel Gates, in an interview with the News Letter, outlined the wide range of public services likely to face disruption as she stressed that the strike is a “last resort”.

The union is calling for local political parties to exert pressure to have negotiations reopened. But DUP MP Sammy Wilson, former Northern Ireland finance minister, said there may be little prospect of the union’s pay demands being met.

“You’ve got to remember that any administration, whether it’s Westminster, ministers or the Assembly, will work within the context of the bloc grant,” he said.

“There is no easy way of meeting one demand without having to take money away from some other demand. The bloc grant is fixed.”

But Ms Gates said angry workers are determined to press ahead with the strike action that could disrupt a host of public services.

“Strike action is always a last resort but the fact that 68.5% voted in favour shows the depth of our anger,” she said.

“There will be disruption and it’s not our intention to hurt the public but that will be a by-product. If you bring government out then it’s going to hurt and that’s inevitable. Obviously if civil servants are on strike there will be an impact there.

“At the Department of Agriculture we represent all of the administrative staff but we also represent vets, other animal testers and so on. In the Department of Communities we represent the staff who pay benefits.

“In the Department of Justice we represent the staff who organise the courts. In the Department for the Economy we represent the people who run the tribunal service. The insolvency service is also in that department.

“In the Department for Infrastructure we have staff responsible for the roads service, lighting and all of those sort of things. All of the infrastructure that we sort of take for granted, there’s a civil servant somewhere ensuring that everything runs smoothly.”

She added: “We’re very clear that this full-day strike action is just the beginning.”

But East Antrim MP Mr Wilson said: “We have to be realistic. There is a fixed amount of money available and there are massive demands at present – we can see the demands that schools are making. There are other competing demands on the budget as well.”

The Department of Finance said on Friday that its pay offer is fair in light of the “challenging financial environment”.