Extensive negotiations over several months did not result in an agreed pay deal for the 11 Departments of the Northern Ireland Administration this year. Management side presented an offer worth 3.67 per cent. on 5 November. As this could not be agreed, and Trade Union side declined to negotiate within the 3.67 per cent. envelope. We took the decision to proceed to pay the award and communicated this to staff and Trade Union side on 27 November. I have made clear to Trade Union side that the 3.67 per cent. deal is the maximum that can be paid. We are, however, open to exploring other reasonable means of resolving the dispute. A meeting of the Central Whitley Council between Trade Union and Management sides took place on 29 January 2004, and we are considering the points discussed then.
Members of the Northern Ireland Civil Service working in the Northern Ireland Office are subject to separate pay negotiations involving three Unions: Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance, Public and Commercial Services and the First Division Association.
A formal offer of 3 per cent. has been made to the Unions.