“NI simply cannot opt out of taking the difficult measures that apply in every other part of the UK”

Sinn Féin’s Caitríona Ruane isn’t the only Minister facing pay-related problems within her brief, as this UTV report notes. College lecturers have rejected a 2% increase in pay offer from employers at further education institutes. And, interestingly, the Employment and Learning Minister, the UUP’s Sir Reg Empey, agrees with them.. in that “The further education lecturers have won the argument. Pay parity has the support of my department..” But the statement includes an interesting attempt at deflecting criticism from his office.

“As I made clear when this matter was debated in the Assembly last June, we are all persuaded of the arguments in favour of pay parity between FE lecturers and school teachers. However, we are also caught by the restrictions imposed by public sector pay policy. All of us in the Executive acknowledge the inequities that can result from the application of any pay policy but, with reluctance, we have concluded that Northern Ireland simply cannot opt out of taking the difficult measures that apply in every other part of the UK.”

Adds Slugger commenters, so far, appear to disagree with Sir Reg’s assessment of the situation..From the statement’s notes

Notes to Editors:

1. The Minister has met with the College employers and Unions previously and has confirmed his support for the principle of pay parity between school teachers and FE lecturers in Northern Ireland, which is a key union demand.

2. In June, the Assembly debated this issue and unanimously agreed that College Lecturers should have pay parity with teachers. Sir Reg Empey confirmed his Department’s support for this during the debate.

3. Pay parity cannot be offered without breaching the Treasury limits laid down under pay policy. This policy applies to a wide range of public sector employees throughout the UK and was introduced in 2004 to safeguard economic growth through the control of public expenditure.

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  • I really have little sympathy for college lecturers. They are on a very high level of pay for what they actually do. There are many low grade public sector workers who have endured pay rises of 2% or less in the past 5 to 6 years. Such workers are on a ridiculously low rates of pay, some just above the minimum wage guidelines.

    Lecturers are free to argue their case, but there are many more desrving souls out there who could benefit much more from a decent pay rise.

  • Rory

    Would you then prefer, MacSwiney, that all public sector workers continue to struggle at a similar level of inadeqate pay levels rather than that one group should strke forward as a vanguard and example to all in demanding a fair return for their labour?

    This strikes me as the “misery loves company” attitude to labour equity.

    The social value of their pay used be pegged to a similar level to employed accountants, pharmacists, veteranarians and similar middle ranking professions and higher than those of police personnel. The ascendancy in recognised value of accountants and police over those who labour at the front of care of our children may go a long way to explain the sense of hopelessness and lack of respect among our young. But then, as the Blessed Margaret once observed, “Society? There’s no such thing” .

  • Pete Baker

    Just to point out the actual topic..

    In that the Minister acknowledges that the FE lecturers have already won the argument..

    but that he, as Minister, does not have the power to do anything about it.

  • k

    Empey does have the power to implement this decision. The devolved assemblies in Wales and Scotland did it. So far this so-called UK public sector pay cap applies only to FE/HE lecturers in NI. Every other group has been exempted from it. It’s not much of a national policy when it only applies to one group.
    Empey needs to grow a backbone and implement the decision.

  • IJP

    This is nonsense from Empey.

    The whole point of devolution is that he has the power to do it. Otherwise we might as well not bother.

    The issue is that school teachers are accountable and FE/HE lecturers basically aren’t. What we should do is equalize pay, but also standards.

    On a broader point, average public sector pay in NI is now 3% above the UK average. That’s not tenable.

  • Cahal

    “This is nonsense from Empey. ”

    Quite the opposite. I’m afraid the local village council up in Stormont will do what it is told by the those with real power.

    We will have to ask a British minister if we can pay our teachers more. And if he says no – tough shite!

  • So if he accepts that the lecturers are right in principle, is he going to have the balls to speak out on it, or is he going to act like a castrated implement of Westminster and sit on his hands? He’s the Minister, elected by the people of the north, therefore he must deliver.

  • k

    The money for this has already been allocated in the FE budget. The FE colleges have been budgeting for it for the past few years. It will not increase the burden on taxpayers.
    This will quickly become an ‘equality’ issue. Schools and FE colleges are becoming more interlinked as student numbers drop. I’m an FE lecturer and next year, I’ll be expected to teach the same subject to the same students in the same building as a teacher but to do it for several thousand pounds a year less. We’re basically being used as cheap labour.
    Why does this so-called public sector pay cap not apply to MLAs, GPs, the PSNI etc? Are they not in the public sector too????

  • Cahal

    k,
    What qualifications do you need to be a FE lecturer?

  • Smithsonian

    IJP
    Not so Ian, It was the executive that agreed that the treasury pay conditions could not be breached.

    The feeling being that falling out with the treasury was not a good long term strategy, if you get my drift.

    So responsibility and solution lies with the executive.

  • k

    Cahal,
    you can only teach one grade below your own qualification, e.g. to teach at HND level you need to have a degree. In reality, nearly every lecturer has a degree and about 25% have masters. You also need to gain a PGCFHE within 3 years of starting. There is some variation for the more vocational subjects such as bricklaying etc with industrial experience counting more than academic qualifications. Interestingly, the brickie, spark etc teaching posts are the hardest to fill as these guys make much more money working in the real world!

    Smithsonian, how come the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies awarded pay parity? Do our MLAs have smaller cahones than the Scots or Welsh? 😉

  • willowfield

    IJP

    On a broader point, average public sector pay in NI is now 3% above the UK average. That’s not tenable.

    What’s your source for this?

    Anyone

    Why is there a permanent banner on Boucher Road simply stating “Public Sector Employees”. Very odd.

  • IJP

    Smithsonian

    Are your comments directed at me?

    You agree with me! That’s my point. The Executive has the power. If it chooses not to use it, that’s for it to explain. But let’s not pretend it doesn’t have the power!

    Willowfield

    Stephen Kingon, IoD Monthly Luncheon, Belfast Reform Club, 3 May this year.

  • idunnomeself

    IJP
    I’d like to know more about that figure, it doesnt ring true to me, NICS pay scales are considerably lower than the scales for equivilent jobs in the UK civil service.

    On the thread, the Minister has the power but not the money, it is in the NI block, but hasn’t made its way to DEL. If he was to fund it he would have to cut it from somewhere else. Then the UK Treasury would also cut the block grant on the grounds that NI had so much money it didn’t need it all. Thus the Treasury enforces pay restraint. My mother is in dispute on this and its been going on since way before devolution returned and they are getting very frustrated, effectively there is no one to argue with!

  • Comrade Stalin

    Why is there a permanent banner on Boucher Road simply stating “Public Sector Employees”. Very odd.

    Willowfield, I think that’s something to do with the nearby car dealership which, for some reason, is trying to market cars to people in the public sector.

    I do agree with the points that there is no point in us having devolution if we’re going to reimplement what we’re told by Whitehall. All the more reason why we need to do more to try to minimize the need for a net subsidy of our economy here.

  • k

    ‘the Minister has the power but not the money, it is in the NI block, but hasn’t made its way to DEL’.
    This is not the case. The money for this settlement has already been built into college budgets. The colleges are currently producing a surplus every year as they don’t have to pay it. DEL do not need to request any additional finance nor raise their allocations to the colleges. The money is sitting in the bank!

  • IJP

    idunnomeself

    No doubt you’ll point us to those “considerably lower” pay scales…

    If he was to fund it he would have to cut it from somewhere else.

    Yes, obviously… somewhere else within the block. That’s what government’s about.

    Then the UK Treasury would also cut the block grant on the grounds that NI had so much money it didn’t need it all.

    Rubbish. You really should stop believing all civil servants tell you!

    First, you’ve found it from within the block.

    Second, I don’t remember them cutting Scotland’s or Wales’.

    there is no one to argue with!

    Yes there is, Sir Reg Empey.

    The Minister who’s failing to deliver when the money is available and Scotland and Wales have delivered.

    Comrade makes the rest of the case.

  • Septic Serpent

    Maybe this is where all the money is going..

    Mostly into David Gavaghans’ pocket by way of his role as chief honcho at the strategic investment board.. c. £213,000 last year helped him keep the wolves from the door.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/6951160.stm

    IMHO !

    An outrageous amount of money even if the SIB was actually doing any thing of value or was fit for purpose to use their own words back at them.

    Selling off most of the NICS office space and leasing it back ?

    Workplace 2010..a scheme to make workplaces for civil servants as inhospitable as possible ?

    Shenanigans over the future of the Harbour estate?

    And much much more to be honest.

    Private sector “expertise” or in other words knowing which mates in the private sector can have their profits boosted by contracts from the public sector.

    Surely the public service ethos of duty should still count for something ??

  • IJP

    It’s very easy to knee-jerk in one case. Gavaghan does have a long record of achievement throughout his career. If he can replicate it here, it may (repeat: “may”) be money well spent.

    What we do need to see is what precisely SIB is supposed to be doing, so that we can then judge whether it’s £213K well spent, and whether the bonuses are merited. The AgendaNI article on the subject frankly doesn’t make me any the wiser, and that’s a wee bit troubling.

    The public must be able to assess quangos’ performances, and it must therefore know what such quangos are about. That’s the issue.

  • Cahal

    “so that we can then judge whether it’s £213K well spent”

    Just to put that in perspective, the US president get about the same amount per year.

  • IJP

    Cahal

    I never like that comparison.

    Presidents and Prime Ministers get all sorts of extras “in kind”, and can then command £213K per after-dinner speech once they move on.

    I think Gavaghan would be lucky to command £213 for a speech about the technicalities of infrastructure finance!

    I’ve no objection to someone being paid big bucks for public service, provided it is accountable and can be shown to be value-for-money.

    Which brings us back to the thread – likewise, FE lecturers must prove they’re value for equal pay, and there must be a way of making their work, and the quality of their teaching, accountable.

  • Septic Serpent

    To Mr IJParsley:

    I refer to the two points you make below.

    1. I think Gavaghan would be lucky to command £213 for a speech about the technicalities of infrastructure finance!

    2.I’ve no objection to someone being paid big bucks for public service, provided it is accountable and can be shown to be value-for-money.

    Response:

    1. Why would he care that he might only get £213 per speech given the amount of money he has already trousered and the size of his eventual pension. It goes without saying that he couldnt care less what remuneration he might make from speeches in NI or elsewhere as no doubt he would be taking in the rays in Tuscany or the like. And i would expect he knows fuck all about the technicalities of infrastructure finance given his track record to date.

    2. This one is the real laugh !! What he is employed to do and paid big bucks for is to transform a public service into a squalid mirror of the private sector at the public sectors expense and the tax payer for that matter. As for accountable and value for money its purely lies damn lies and statistics.

    I don’t hold the man in person in contempt but the post he is currently incumbent in and the psuedo organisation he is allegedly leading.

    A question for IJP rather than Mr Gavaghan for whom he so comfortably apologises ?

    Would you not be best placed in the not so young Conservatives ? (Just an observation)

  • IJP

    Septic

    Go back and actually read my post and show me where we disagree.

  • Declan Church

    “NI simply cannot opt out of taking the difficult measures that apply in every other part of the UK”

    When I read this headline, I presumed it was about Dr Paisley deciding NI beef isn’t British after all. But no, it’s just to do with money, not principles.

    Has the Isle of Wight taken advantage of this new apparent opt-out available to it, btw?