Northern Ireland

NIPSA warns that scheme could see 6,000 jobs go

NIPSA Image copyright PACEMAKER
Image caption NIPSA said the civil service would bear the brunt of job losses

A proposed voluntary redundancy scheme for public servants in Northern Ireland could result in the loss of 6,000 jobs, the union NIPSA has warned.

On Thursday, First Minister Peter Robinson said such a voluntary scheme would save £160m a year.

NIPSA said the civil service would bear the brunt of job losses.

It said it had been advised by civil service management that it is about to begin work on a "workforce reduction plan".

"It may also be the case, as referred to in the note from the head of the civil service, that recruitment and promotion freezes and greater pay restraint could, as well as a voluntary exit scheme, feature as part of the measures that the NI Civil Service intend to take to address the financial situation," the union said.

"There can be no doubt that any substantial reductions in civil service numbers will have a major detrimental impact on the delivery of services and will adversely affect the public.

"In addition it will increase the pressure on staff who will be expected to continue to deliver high quality public services.

"NIPSA has made it clear that it is opposed to reductions in the civil service workforce and we are committed to doing our utmost to protect the interests of members."

It said it would be meeting on Monday to discuss the situation.

A spokesperson for the civil service said: "The head of the civil service wrote to staff highlighting the serious environment in which the executive and Northern Ireland Civil Service is now operating.

"The head of the civil service will ensure there is engagement with NIPSA in the near future to discuss the potential implications of the current financial challenges."

'Knocked over in the rush'

The voluntary redundancy scheme could be opened up to help Stormont balance its budget.

The first minister told a DUP event on Thursday that he expected "you would be knocked over in the rush" if such a scheme opened.

Sinn Féin has not disagreed that such a scheme is on the cards. The executive agreed a loan of up to £100m from the Treasury on Thursday.

'Immense challenges'

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton said the executive still faced an "incredibly difficult budget situation" that was exacerbated by the executive's failure to reach a deal on welfare reform.

Image caption Simon Hamilton said the head of the civil service would look at issues around the number of staff employed

"The entire executive recognises that we're facing immense challenges moving forward," he said.

"At our meeting on Wednesday, there was agreement across all of the parties that the head of the civil service would go away and produce a report and a plan for the executive to consider that would look at the restructuring of our whole public sector.

"That will look at issues around the number of civil servants and public servants that we have, issues around pay as well and we will consider that in the light of what the head of the civil service brings back to us."

The deal to secure the loan of up to £100m from the Treasury was brokered by the Democratic Unionist Party with the Chancellor, George Obsborne.

The loan will ensure Stormont does not breach its spending limits by more than £200m at the end of the financial year.

However, it will increase the amount Stormont will owe the Treasury next year.

Northern Ireland's failure to implement welfare reform means the executive will incur £87m in penalties this year and another £114m next year - those penalties might be waived if the parties reach a deal in the near future.

It is also understood that welfare reform is not part of the deal with the Treasury, but instead will feature in the planned political talks due to begin next week.

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