Apology over pay pack blip

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SDLP health spokesman Mark H. Durkan has branded as ‘completely unacceptable’ the manner in which a pay and pension review has left some Derry health workers with reductions of up to £200 from their August pay packets.

Hundreds of workers in the Western Trust were caught up in the payroll shake-up with the average loss estimated at £120.

Six thousand health service staff across the North have been impacted after pension contribution thresholds were raised and staff pay reviewed between April and July.

The NIPSA trade union has said there was no indication from the Health and Social Care Board’s Business Services Organisation (BSO) that this four month review was taking place and that the pay bombshell dropped unexpectedly this month.

However, the process has now led to “over and underpayments for the people affected and the resultant difficulties experienced by staff”.

Mr. Durkan said: “This is the latest in a long line of mix ups since the centralisation of payroll services in BSO - all of which have resulted in hardship to health workers.

“It is completely unacceptable that people have ended up out of pocket without warning. I have been raising the impact of new pay grades and pension bands on staff since March so while we can accept that this is an unintended consequence there is no way it can be described as an unforeseen one.”

A BSO spokesperson said the deductions were the “result of the mandatory pension band review process, which is designed to ensure that employees are paying the right contribution to the pension scheme.”

“BSO has conveyed its apologies for any distress caused as a result of this exercise, and will continue to work with Trade Unions and HSC employer organisations, to improve the communications in regard to all issues impacting on employee pay,” it added.

But Mr. Durkan said: “Once more workers have been treated with contempt. Lessons have clearly not been learned and there is a clear lack of accountability.

“It is vital now that action is taken to ensure that nobody is plunged into debt by this fiasco and that realistic and reasonable repayment plans are agreed.”

A Western Trust spokesperson said: “This was brought to the attention of the Trust. We are committed to ensuring staff receive their correct pay. We will work with BSO colleagues as a matter of urgency to address this concerning matter for all staff affected.”