Waterside House staff to be balloted on industrial action

Trade union NIPSA could ballot its members on potential industrial action as early as next week amid fears for around 80 Derry civil service jobs.

Around 70 people attended a public meeting, including leading trade unionists, political representatives and concerned staff, in the city last night.

NIPSA official Noel Griffin said at present Stormont’s Department of Finance are 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.

“If those staff spend currently around £1000 per month that means £1 million per year will be taken out of the local economy, money the north west cannot afford to lose,” he said.

Nicola Brown, who has been working in Waterside House for the past four years, said concerns had been growing over the last two months.

“Morale in the office at the moment is pretty bad. We feel like we are in limbo at the moment. Nipsa have tried but we have had no reassurance or explanations from management.

“You are afraid to make any sort of commitments at the moment. With Christmas coming up, I am saying to myself, do I need to cut back on spending, worrying about the mortgage, the car. We just don’t know where we will be in a year’s time.”

Her colleague Nichola Sproule said she shared concerns about the ongoing lack of clarity.

“They keep saying we are only at the proposal stage but as staff it doesn’t exactly fill you with hope. This is not just people’s jobs, it is their lives.”

The ‘Journal’ understands staff will be balloted within in the next seven days over the possibility of industrial action.

Earlier this week the Department of Finance said it “will continue to evaluate all options” around future delivery of Civil Service pension arrangements.

It said the north’s Finance Minister Simon Hamilton will ultimately decide how pensions are administered.