Northern Ireland

Trade union attacks rise in civil service agency workers

Image caption The Department of Finance said using agency workers provided was "normal practice" in large organisations

The number of agency workers filling jobs in the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) is rising.

A trade union has described the situation as "disgraceful", saying too many employees were paid-off under a Stormont redundancy programme.

Department of Finance figures reveal there were 889 agency workers within government departments on 1 January 2017.

This compares to 380 in mid-2015 when a voluntary redundancy scheme began.

The department said the use of agency workers provided by recruitment firms was "normal policy and practice in any modern large organisation".

Revolving door

Up-to-date costs will not be available until April, but they are likely to have been more than £10m in 2016/17.

Public sector union Nipsa said 300 permanent, full-time jobs could have been funded instead.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The civil service has seen payroll savings of £152m due to the redundancy programme

Northern Ireland's civil service has shrunk by one fifth - or 5,020 posts - thanks to a pay-off programme funded by Northern Ireland Executive loans from the Treasury.

Nipsa deputy general secretary Bumper Graham said: "You are borrowing money, paying interest, and putting people out of work.

"Then the next day you are going to a private sector company saying 'we let too many people go, can we hire some of the same people back again'. All round, Northern Ireland is losing."

Short-term contract

The Department of Finance does not hold data on people who took redundancy and were then re-hired as agency workers, but it is permissible.

It said the civil service has seen payroll savings of £152m due to the redundancy programme.

It added that a big part of the rise in agency workers was due to a short-term contract for the Department of Work and Pensions.

This alone involved 385 agency workers.

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