MLAs have increased salaries for staff by 46% as well as increasing allowances for running their constituency offices from £4,900 to £7,000 per year. Payments will be backdated to 1st April.

The changes unsurprisingly were supported by the DUP, Sinn Fein and the SDLP. This could in effect cost the taxpayers an extra £4.2m every year.

The original pay was set by the Independent Financial Review Panel and was benchmarked against salaries in health, teaching, public and private sectors. The Independent Financial Renew Panel have expressed “astonishment” by some of the increases. The IFRP have stated that “A 46% rise, 37% of that in cash, 5% extra paid into their pensions, and on top of that, they gave them an extra eight days a year leave, which is worth another 4% in pay.”

While the Workers’ Party welcome, support and lobby strongly for pay packages that provide workers with a liveable wage along with fair annual leave and sick pay rights it would be remiss of us if we did not point out that this has come at a time when there is a financial crisis. Workers are being laid off, businesses are closing, families are being evicted. Not to mention the fact that the DUP and Sinn Fein voted for vicious welfare cuts against workers and their families not so long ago when directed by Westminster and of course the fact that the Assembly was down for almost three years adds to the insult.

Once again, we see a two-tier society. The Workers’ Party calls on the Assembly to ensure that all workers have a liveable wage and are provided with adequate protection including fair sick pay and annual leave.