No redundancies pledge but ‘a reduction in staff required’ - Minister

Waterside House. (1702SL10)
Waterside House. (1702SL10)

Stormont’s Finance Minister says no one will be made redundant at Derry’s Waterside House but warned changes to how civil service pensions are administered will require “a reduction in staff.”

DUP Minister Simon Hamilton also criticised what he called “ ill-informed public comment” during a debate at Stormont last night.

“I am acutely aware that staff in Civil Service Pensions Branch in Waterside House, Londonderry are concerned about job security in light of the plan to replace the pension administration and payment systems, not least because their fears have been whipped up by ill-informed public comment.

“Screaming publicly that 80 jobs will be lost when nothing could be further from the truth does those staff no service whatsoever.”

Last month Noel Griffin of trade union NIPSA told a public meeting in the city that the Department of Finance is considering two options around how work in the civil service Pensions Department is carried out.

“There are two main options on the table at the moment; one is a new IT system which would be serviced by civil service staff or a new IT system with the outsourcing of staff to service that system.”

He said should that outsourcing option would result in the loss of 80 staff currently employed at Derry’s Waterside House and warned of wider implications for the city.

In last night’s Assembly debate the Minister said no decision had been taken yet.

“The main options to be considered include both a system solution to be operated by civil servants or a managed service, i.e. an outsourced solution. No decision on the preferred option has yet been made. The Business Case is still being developed and has a number of Departmental approval stages to complete,” he said.

“Civil Service Pensions Branch will continue to exist and be staffed by civil servants as there are a number of other key functions to delivery such as scheme management, policy and legislation and finance.

“However, whichever option is approved, there will be a reduction in staff required. Any surplus staff will be managed in line with documented NICS procedures, including natural wastage and redeployment.

“Let me reiterate no one will be made redundant contrary to the public statements to this effect attributed to NIPSA.”

Speaking during the debate Derry Sinn Fein MLA Maeve McLaughlin told the Minister of the detrimental impact job losses would have in the city.

She said the loss of posts will undo the positive work to secure these jobs and will also have a major detrimental impact on the local economy.

“With the prospect of 350 job losses looming due to the threatened closure of the Coleraine Vehicle Licensing Office, the North West can ill afford to lose a further 80 posts,” she said.

Ms McLaughlin also told Finance Minister Simon Hamilton there are concerns about the lack of consultation over plans for the Pensions Department and urged him to consider the impact of his decision.