Sir Jeffrey said,
“Last week I met with officials from the civil service union NIPSA to discuss public sector pay. This is the latest in a series of meetings held with trade unions representing public sector workers in Northern Ireland.
I am now more convinced that the Treasury funding model for Northern Ireland needs re-examined. The amount of money available for our public services will continue to reduce under the current Barnett approach.
There are major challenges for the recruitment and retention of people working across our public services. In some cases, this is due to higher wages in the private sector or other countries and in the health service, many can attain better pay and more flexible work when employed by an agency.
In the long-run, agencies are exorbitantly costly to the public purse. But due to poor pay and conditions, many of our best public servants are now employed by agencies rather than the public sector.
The Government must be able to attract and retain people who have the skills to deliver those vital services, including in health and education. This is especially challenging in an environment where inflation is high and the cost-of-living impacts on household budgets.
There needs to be a rethink by the Treasury on public sector pay. If the public sector is to be fit for purpose in the 21st Century, then it must be capable of attracting and retaining the people who are essential to the delivery of our key public services. Losing key workers to agencies or indeed other countries, is not sustainable.
As such, we will continue to engage in discussions with the UK Government about public sector pay across the UK, including here in Northern Ireland. Even if it were fully functioning, our Executive does not have the resources to tackle this problem. Only the UK Government can do this and only the Treasury can deliver the funding needed to provide decent pay awards to public sector workers that will help safeguard the delivery of our public services for the future.”