Equal Pay Settlement: PSNI And NIO Staff 4/6/2013

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I support the motion and thank my party colleagues Mr McCrea and Mr Weir for bringing the motion.  It is, as was said, a timely motion.  It is regrettable that we are having to debate the issue.

Three things encapsulate the motion and put the needle right home to the heart of what it is about. 

The motion:  

"recognises the sense of unfairness felt by many civil servants".  

It recognises also that they are those:  

"who had worked in or were working in the PSNI or the Northern Ireland Office at the time of the equal pay settlement of 2009 but were not entitled to access that settlement".  

The motion also calls for us to sort it out.   

There is something wrong when we in the Chamber are talking about equal pay for equal work.  There is something wrong when we are talking about what is essentially an industrial relations problem, and a motion that unites the Chamber with the exception, at least at the moment, of Mr Dickson.  The tone of Mr Dickson's remarks is regrettable.  He might well disagree with the motion, and that is fair enough, but there is the matter of the tone in which Members set their remarks on what is, essentially, a very sensitive issue for many people who did their duty.  As has been said, many of them did their duty through very dangerous days.  They did their duty on our behalf — on society's behalf — and the terrorist did not distinguish between someone on the front line in the PSNI and someone who worked in a back office.  

When any civil servant is doing his or her duty and is sitting beside someone who receives additional money, we need to ensure that everything — equal pay and equal work — is treated equally.  There was an attempt to get the assimilation exercise to come into play.  That assimilation exercise was supposed to end all the future pay claims.  There was also a commitment to conduct, at the end of that, a comprehensive pay and grading routine.  I have no doubt that PSNI staff were to be included in all the negotiations.  

As has been referred to, some comfort was taken from the letter from David Fell, a former head of the Civil Service.  That letter has been described as a letter of comfort.  We know that, within that, his feelings were that natural justice should prevail in the addressing of the issue.  Natural justice is very prevalent in many speeches that are made across here.  We may use a different word; we may use that word "equality", but natural justice was in the thinking of David Fell, a former head of the Civil Service and a man with considerable experience, when he wrote that letter.

Thank you.  Let me just say this:  this is a human issue, and it needs to be treated as a human issue.  We need the sentiments that have come from across the Chamber, with the exception of Mr Dickson, to prevail.