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From The Socialist newspaper, 31 July 2019

"Enough is enough": 20,000 Northern Ireland civil servants strike against pay restraint

Nipsa members on strike outside Stormont, Northern Ireland, 26.7.19, photo by Carmel Gates

Nipsa members on strike outside Stormont, Northern Ireland, 26.7.19, photo by Carmel Gates   (Click to enlarge)

Carmel Gates, Nipsa deputy general secretary (personal capacity)

Up to 20,000 civil servants across Northern Ireland took strike action on 26 July.

Northern Ireland's civil servants union Nipsa achieved a magnificent 68.5% Yes vote in favour of strike action. It was particularly significant because we were forced to ballot within a three-week window before the summer leave season.

The strike has been provoked by the imposition of another below-inflation pay award for 2018-19.

This will be the largest industrial action in Northern Ireland since March 2015, when the entire public sector was shut down in a strike against the austerity measures implemented by the Tories and the Northern Ireland Assembly.

A pay increase was due to civil servants from 1 August 2018. The measly 1.5% imposed will be in pay packets in July. Nipsa's claim was for 7% on pay and allowances and for scale shortening.

The treasury guidance that limits pay awards to civil servants in England and Wales also applies to Northern Ireland. We have suffered years of pay restraint with the majority of civil servants earning below the Northern Ireland average wage. Just as in Britain, many public servants now rely on second jobs and tax credits to make ends meet.

This strike isn't just about pay. To add insult to injury, changes to personnel procedures mean that line managers will be forced to take on more responsibilities in relation to sick absence management, grievance and discipline.

The action began with a full day strike on 26 July and will be followed by further action in the following months.

They tell us there is no money but they spent 210 million a few years ago to lay off 3,500 civil servants and now they are recruiting more staff. We have been left with no option but to fight. Enough is enough.

Nipsa members have made it clear that they are up for strong action and are determined to do what needs to be done.

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