Chris Heaton-Harris is not the only one who could stop the public sector pay disputes

As a lifelong Trade Unionist, I’m on strike today.

All because Chris Heaton-Harris refuses to deal with public sector pay in the absence of the Assembly and he is holding us hostage.

No it isn’t.  Let’s blame the right people.

Chris Heaton-Harris could end the public sector pay disputes at the stroke of a pen.  We know that.

There is one other group of people who could also end the public sector pay disputes at the stroke of a pen.  Yesterday they once again blocked the election of a Speaker to the Assembly by refusing to support any candidate, and yet the protests are outside the Northern Ireland Office.

Fake promises

In 2022, the DUP made five key election manifesto promises:

  • Fix the NHS
  • Grow the economy
  • Keep our schools world-class
  • Remove the NI protocol
  • Help working families

What has actually happened since the 2022 election?

  • The NHS has become more broken due to lack of funding
  • Schools are deteriorating due to lack of funding
  • Working families are being hindered due to cuts to services and increased prices

Three ignored and broken promises.  Moving on…

  • Parliament has endorsed the NI Protocol and the Windsor Framework by a huge majority

The DUP has no power to remove the NI Protocol.  It’s a matter for Westminster, which has the sole power to make international treaties as per the Northern Ireland Act 1998, a power granted by virtue of the Acts of Union.

Do you have to agree with everything Parliament decides?  No, you don’t.  I fundamentally disagree with the tax policy of the Tories, but I recognise Parliament’s authority to make laws I don’t like.  If I want them to change, I need to find 300+ MPs to agree with me, and 515 MPs voted for the Windsor Framework.  Good luck.

  • No action to grow the economy

The fundamental issue with the NI protocol is that if it goes, the entire trade agreement with the EU falls.  The UK would have to offer something in return to avoid that, and an EU which has already signalled “thou shalt not screw over Ireland with a land border or by any other means” is entitled to say no the alternative is not good enough.  Therefore abolishing the NI protocol is against the interests of the UK as a whole, and making north-south trade more difficult will shrink instead of grow the economy.

The DUP made five promises.  It only pursued one of those five promises, and it failed at that.

Get back to work.

I’m not entitled to be paid for today.  25 MLAs this day are taking their pay while stopping all other MLAs from doing their work.  By refusing to do their work, the DUP has made me and tens of thousands of other public sector workers hostages of the Secretary of State.

We should be protesting outside every DUP office.  Yes, sure, protest outside the Secretary of State’s office, because there’s something he could do.  But let’s not let the DUP off the hook for creating this situation in the first place.


We’ll all be paid for tomorrow except for the gritters (congratulations to Unite on choosing this daily reminder of how much we need public sector workers for selective strike action), but with the exception of the DUP, we’ll be at work or on leave.

The DUP is still riding high in the unionist polls, despite every broken promise from their 2022 manifesto.  Meantime, the poor get poorer, the sick can’t get treatment, and the workers don’t get paid their due.

The posters say “Stop the DUP sellout”.  They were intended to mean “Stop the DUP fudging on the Protocol” but there’s another sell-out we need to stop.  Stop the sell-out of public sector workers and services.

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