Page last updated at 11:26 GMT, Wednesday, 9 May 2012 12:26 UK

Finance Committee

A bill to remove the need for union consent to reduce Northern Ireland Civil Service pension and compensation payments could be seen as "regressive", representatives from the Human Rights Commission told MLAs, on 9 May 2012.

The Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) pension scheme was a statutory pension provision that was established by the Superannuation (Northern Ireland) Order 1972.

Its powers enable the Department of Finance to amend pension and compensation schemes in the NICS without the need for primary legislation.

If the Superannuation Bill becomes law, the 1972 Order would be amended to remove the need for union consent to reduce compensation payments.

Dr Nazia Latif said the bill "was of great risk of being a regressive measure".

Vice chair of the committee, Dominic Bradley, said the bill's proposals were a "radical shift from a trade union point of view from a position of strength".

He also said the changes would mean assembly assent would no longer be required, something which Dr Latif raised concerns with.

"It would be proper of the assembly to have to assent and possibly even go one step further to ask the employer to re-enter negotiations if the assembly wasn't satisfied that a constructive negotiation had taken place," she said.

Sinn Fein's Mitchel McLaughlin said the executive and the assembly would be in "a particularly difficult situation" as Westminster was likely to accept the legislation.

"The executive will have to dip into its own pocket if it breaks parity and decides to protect the position currently enjoyed by civil servants," he said.

"There could well be other human rights affected - in the inability of the executive to fund the wider range of its programmes if it has to ring-fence some of those finite funds to maintain the status quo in terms of the current superannuation arrangements."

Dr David Russell, also from the NI Human Rights Commission, said parity had largely benefited the NICS in the past, whereas the current proposal would be detrimental.

He said the bill would lead to the "disempowerment of trade unions".

"The changes that will follow as a result of the legislation, both represent a step back for trade union rights and their members," he said.

However, he agreed with Mr McLaughlin, that although breaking parity could result in better arrangements for the NICS, it would likely have "detrimental consequences in financial terms for the executive".

Finance committee membership

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