Brexit

Stormont chiefs offer staff £1,500 bonus to join no-deal Brexit contingency plans

Some 800 staff have so far been trained in the contingency structures
Brendan Hughes

STORMONT chiefs are offering civil servants pay boosts and a bonus of up to £1,500 to join their no-deal Brexit contingency plans.

Staff are being asked to volunteer to move into "Command, Control and Coordination" (C3) structures, which Stormont officials plan to operate if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal.

The contingency plans may involve staff moving onto a 24/7 rota for up to six months, according to internal documents seen by The Irish News.

A 'central hub' will be established to coordinate the Northern Ireland response to a no-deal Brexit.

Around 800 staff have so far been trained in the contingency structures, but Stormont chiefs last week made a further call for recruits - adding an extra payment of up to £1,500 as an incentive.

Read More: Former Real IRA leader warns hard Brexit will be exploited by armed groups

The Executive Office said a second request for volunteers was issued to staff to "provide additional capacity should the need arise".

British prime minister Theresa May is continuing her attempts to rescue a deal with the European Union before the UK's scheduled leave date of March 29.

One of the main points of dispute among MPs is the 'backstop' arrangement, aimed at ensuring an open border between the north and the Republic if no alternative plan is agreed.

In a paper circulated to staff outlining Brexit contingency plans, Stormont officials said the timing "should not be interpreted as meaning that a 'no-deal' exit is now inevitable" but that "we must make preparations for every eventuality".

The paper, marked "official sensitive", outlines across nine pages the pay and allowances available for those who move from their current roles to C3.

Benefits include a "C3 completion payment" of up to £1,500 in a bid to "ensure the retention of C3 volunteers for the full period of the C3 structures".

It is described as an "exceptional measure for the particular circumstances of the C3 arrangements for Brexit/EU exit only" and a payment which is taxed, non-pensionable and only paid when C3 ends.

Other pay lifts include a "shift disturbance allowance" of up to 20 per cent of the person's basic salary based on the proportion of nights worked in a rota, and a "night duty allowance" of up to 33 per cent.

Civil servants will also be entitled to an "on-call at home allowance" ranging from an extra single payment of £6.21 on a weekday to £22.33 on a public holiday.

A "standby allowance" - for those remaining at work overnight after a normal full day's work - would range from £11.76 on a weekday and £42.34 on a public holiday.

C3 details were sent to Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) staff in December, but a further recruitment drive was made last week with the 'completion payment' added to the terms.

In a document circulated to staff, Stormont officials said it "may be that we are not required to activate C3 at all" but "it is also possible that we will need to operate 24/7 for an extended period of time" which "could be up to six months".

An Executive Office spokeswoman said: "The Northern Ireland Civil Service has been developing arrangements to ensure that we have the structures and capacity in place to address any difficulties which may emerge when the UK leaves the EU on March 29 2019.

"This involves comprehensive contingency arrangements to deal with any potential disruption. These arrangements may require the establishment of temporary structures that might need to operate outside normal working hours.

"Over recent weeks 800 staff have been trained in how, if required, the temporary structures would operate. The NICS is ready to operate contingency arrangements at very short notice however, we are continuing to further enhance our resilience.

"For this reason, a second request for volunteers has issued to staff to provide additional capacity should the need arise."

Asked what incentives were added to last week's second volunteer drive, the spokeswoman added; "Other than the 'completion payment' staff will be paid in line with NICS pay and conditions."

Northern Ireland has not had a power-sharing government since early 2017, leaving civil servants to run Stormont departments.

Last year David Sterling, interim head of the civil service, said the contingency planning was "simply the next step in readying our plans for exit day".

NICS has around 23,000 staff.

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