Stormont party leaders call for pay rise to be deferred
The leaders of Stormont's five main parties have said they are opposed to the £1,000 pay rise awarded to MLAs and are to seek to have it deferred.
In a joint statement released this afternoon, the leaders of the DUP, Sinn Féin, SDLP, UUP and Alliance said news of the pay increase "came as a surprise to all parties" and they will jointly ask the Assembly Commission to defer it.
.The statement said: "We share the broad public dismay at this development, only a matter of days after the assembly and institutions have been fully restored.
“We have had a range of concerns over time around recommendations emerging from the Independent Financial Review Panel.
“We are jointly asking the Assembly Commission that any pay proposal is immediately deferred until the work of the Financial Review Panel has been comprehensively reviewed, and a new panel has the opportunity to consider this matter again and produce a fresh determination.
Earlier today, Sinn Féin and the DUP confirmed their MLAs will not accept the £1,000 pay rise.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill had said the salary increase is 'unjustifiable'.
It was revealed yesterday that assembly members' salaries are to increase from £49,500 to £50,500.
Last night, Ms O'Neill, who is Sinn Féin's leader in the north, posted on Twitter that MLAs "had no input into this decision, nor did they seek it.
"Given that the assembly has just been restored this is unjustifiable and should not be paid," she said.
MLAs pay is set by an independent body, not by MLAs.— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) January 21, 2020
MLAs had no input into this decision, nor did they seek it.
Given that the assembly has just been restored this is unjustifiable and should not be paid.
The SDLP confirmed its 12 MLAs would not keep the pay rise:
The MLA pay increase is poorly judged and even more poorly timed.— SDLP (@SDLPlive) January 22, 2020
All SDLP MLAs will donate the additional salary to a charity of their own choice.
Today MLA’s received a pay rise. People are rightly angered & outraged. Our nurses & teachers are on the streets to fight for a pay rise they deserve. Politicians should not accept the increase. I will donate the increase to local mental health charities.— Daniel McCrossan MLA (@McCrossanMLA) January 21, 2020
As updated on Facebook yesterday I too will be donating my automatic pay rise to charity. We have by no measure earned or deserve it. But as we cant but receive it I will be passing it to various local charities throughout the year. pic.twitter.com/Esq69XXx58— Colin McGrath MLA (@ColinSDLP) January 22, 2020
Sinn Féin and the DUP also confirmed this morning that none of its MLAs will accept the pay rise:
Sinn Féin oppose the pay increase.— Sinn Féin (@sinnfeinireland) January 22, 2020
Given that the assembly has just been restored, it's unjustifiable & we won't accept it.
We are actively exploring options to stop it.
If that's not possible then we'll see if the money can be returned to public funds or donated to charity.
Yesterday, west Belfast MLA Gerry Carroll said the pay increase was "a slap in the face" to nurses who recently went on strike to achieve pay parity with health workers in England.
The People Before Profit leader only takes home around half of his entitled salary, with the remainder being diverted into party funds.
"The fact that MLAs are back in post just over a week and are having their wages topped up will no doubt come as a slap in the face to nurses who stood on freezing pickets for months for pay parity, and the Civil Service staff who are still taking industrial action to get what they deserve," said Mr Carroll.
"People Before Profit have always advocated for MLAs to be paid an average worker's wage - it's what I take home.
"How can MLAs receive a salary that is around double the average wage and claim to competently represent their constituents' interests when their financial realities are so different?"
An assembly spokeswoman said: "Following the formation of an Executive on 11 January 2020, the full provisions of the Assembly Members (Salaries and Expenses) Determination (Northern Ireland) 2016 are in effect, including the provisions for an annual uprating."
She added: "The current annual salary payable as a member is £50,500."
A Sinn Féin spokesperson said: "MLAs' pay is set by an independent body, not by MLAs.
"MLAs had no input into this decision, nor did they seek it."