Northern Ireland

Unions call for Chris Heaton-Harris to meet leadership amid pay dispute

Members of Unite the Union and GMB on a picket line at Translink’s Europa Bus Station on Glengall Street in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)
Members of Unite the Union and GMB on a picket line at Translink’s Europa Bus Station on Glengall Street in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA) Members of Unite the Union and GMB on a picket line at Translink’s Europa Bus Station on Glengall Street in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

Trade unions have urged Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris to meet their leadership over public sector pay.

It follows several walkouts across a number of sectors including schools, public transport and health.

Unions said workers have rejected a pay freeze which they said was equivalent to a 11% real-terms pay cut once RPI inflation is taken into account.

Friday saw significant disruption when all public transport halted for 24 hours, at the same time as school support workers took part in strike action.

Further stoppages have been suggested.

No ministers are in position in Northern Ireland while devolved government at Stormont remains collapsed.

Senior civil servants are running departments with limited powers, while Mr Heaton-Harris set the budget in the absence of ministers.

In a social media message on Monday, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) called for Mr Heaton-Harris to immediately meet trade union leadership to discuss fair pay for workers, investment in public service, a fair deal for Northern Ireland and safety and dignity at work.

“All we want for Christmas is a fair deal for workers and Northern Ireland,” they said.

In a statement to media, ICTU assistant general secretary Gerry Murphy said: “We want the Secretary of State to know he hasn’t been forgotten in this season of giving.”

A Northern Ireland Office spokesperson said in response: “The UK Government has no authority to negotiate pay in Northern Ireland. It is for the relevant NI departments to negotiate pay policies.

“It remains the Secretary of State’s priority to see the return of locally elected, accountable and effective devolved government, which is the best way for Northern Ireland to be governed.

“The Secretary of State has commissioned a range of information and advice from the Northern Ireland Civil Service on potential measures to raise more public revenue, or otherwise to improve the sustainability of public finances in Northern Ireland, for an incoming Executive to consider.”