Article from the Oct 2004 edition, Socialist Voice

Ministers back down on NJC pay

THE NATIONAL Joint Council (NJC) pay award for Local Government and related services was settled in July, with a three year pay deal of 8.65%.

By Brian Booth

In Northern Ireland, the implementation of the deal was halted by the Direct Rule Ministers, who demanded that an exercise was undertaken to ensure that the Treasury threshold of 3.5% was not breached.

As with the pay award to civil servants, the 3.5% was to include increments, which have never been part of annual pay settlements in the past.

The four Public Service areas affected are the Housing Executive, Health Trusts, Councils and Education Boards. By late September, under pressure from the unions, all except the Education Boards had signalled their intentions to implement the pay rises.

The left led Public Officers Executive of NIPSA agreed a two pronged approach: legal advice alongside preparation for industrial action until the Education Boards agreed to pay up in full.

The legal advice was that writs should be served on each of the five Education Boards. These were due to be served in the week beginning 27 September. On the Friday before, the managements of the five Boards gave the go ahead for the implementation of the pay award and staff will not get the rise by the end of October.

This is the second time in less than a month that the threat of determined action has forced the government to back off. Over the summer fire-fighters conducted a ballot for industrial action when New Labour Ministers intervened to prevent the final stages of their pay agreement being implemented.

When it became clear that the ballot was about to deliver a clear mandate for strike action the government gave way. This shows that action and the threat of action can get results.

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