The announcement that the Northern Ireland Housing Executive is going to axe over 400 jobs over the next few years raised eyebrows and caught the media’s attention. The union reps were duly trotted out to threaten industrial action etc but our local politicians were strangely silent. No doubt it was because of the Easter break. It was strange however that of 108 MLAs, barely any had anything to say on the subject. Could it be because decision is a Northern Ireland one? There are no callous direct rule ministers to blame.
The silence was almost complete of course because all four main parties – DUP, Sinn Féin, UUP and SDLP – are in the Executive. With perhaps as many as 10,000 public sector jobs expected to go over the next three or so years, such announcements are likely to become regular features. If the jobs are not all lost through ‘natural wastage’ then there must be a strong possibility of repeated industrial action. As the Education Minister, Caitriona Ruane, knows from her experience with the classroom assistants dispute this is not ultimately a way to win friends (or votes).