A number of civil servants in Fermanagh took strike action in response to a below inflation pay increase for the ninth year running.

The industrial action, supported by the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA) took place on Friday, July 26 with pickets in Enniskillen at the Jobs and Benefits Office, Waterways Ireland, Road Services and the Department of Agriculture.

Ahead of the strike, Alison Millar, NIPSA General Secretary stated: “This is not a decision our members took lightly however our members are angry that they have received, for the ninth year running a below inflation pay increase. In addition their terms and conditions of employment are under attack.”

She continued: “Our members have clearly demonstrated their anger and are resolute in seeking to ensure that the employer re-opens the pay negotiations for 2018/19 and properly negotiates with NIPSA on both the issue of pay and other terms and conditions.”

Speaking at the picket line outside the Jobs and Benefits office in Enniskillen, James Carey, NIPSA branch secretary said: “This has been building since 2010, so this is just a continuation of that action.”

He continued: “Nothing has really changed since 2010, a lot of our workers are still experiencing financial hardship. There is a public misconception that public servants are well-paid but a lot of our workers are actually having to claim the benefits that they administer themselves to make ends meet.”

When asked what he hoped the strike would achieve, Mr. Carey said: “I hope that the management and the powers that be will come together and see the anger and frustration out there among the workers.”

“This is not a thing that has happened over night, this is a combination of nearly 10 years brought on by austerity policies and we don’t see any change to that there,” he added.

Noting that 70 per cent of NIPSA members balloted for the strike action, Mr. Carey commented: “I think that sends a strong message of the feelings out there among the people and that’s only going to build and grow.”

He continued: “We’ve seen how public services are being decimated the whole time, stripped, it’s health, education, roads, it’s everything.”

“We are always getting the mantra that there is no money in the pot to pay us or pay for public services. That is utter rubbish, there’s loads of money there, it’s just it’s all used in the wrong places. There is plenty of money there, there just seems to be a class divide between the rich and the poor and that’s growing, year on year. So that’s really what we’re fighting for, we’re taking a stand. We just think enough is enough,” Mr. Carey concluded.

In response to the strike action, a spokeswoman for the Department of Finance (DoF) stated: "The number of people on strike across the Northern Ireland Civil Service on July 26 was approximately 4,247. The vast majority of public services continued to be delivered. Following extensive negotiations with Trade Unions on the 2018 pay award they rejected the pay offer made. Steps have therefore been taken to implement the 2018 pay award which was paid to staff on 29 July."

She continued: "DoF believes the pay award is fair in the context of the challenging financial environment the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) is operating in with finite resources available and increasing pressures. The pay award to non-industrial civil servants is worth 2.05 per cent of NICS pay bill with the cost of this award being around £16.4 million. DoF is keen to tackle low pay in the NICS and so the pay award includes a larger increase of three per cent at Administrative Assistant and analogous grades, with all others receiving a 1.25 per cent uplift as well as any progression payment due."