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RCN Northern Ireland to ballot members on industrial action over pay and staffing

College cites 2,600 unfilled nursing posts and 15% fall in pay over past eight years

College cites 2,600 unfilled nursing posts and 15% fall in pay over past eight years


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RCN members in Northern Ireland will be balloted in the autumn on whether to take industrial action over nurse pay and staffing levels. 

The college warned that there are 2,600 unfilled nursing posts across the health and social care (HSC) service in Northern Ireland, with a similar level of vacancies estimated in nursing homes.

It also said the value of nurses’ pay in Northern Ireland had fallen by 15% in real terms over the past eight years, while the cost of using nursing agencies to fill staffing gaps increased to an all-time high of £32 million in 2017-18.

Addressing the risk to patients and nurses

RCN Northern Ireland director Pat Cullen said: ‘No nurse in the country wishes to take any form of industrial action.

‘However, as a profession, we are no longer prepared to tolerate the risk to patients, nurses and the people of Northern Ireland.’

Government responds to news of proposed ballot

A spokesperson for the Department of Health in Northern Ireland said: ‘We highly value the nursing workforce and the department is committed to doing everything it can, within the current budget constraints, to ensure a fair pay award settlement this year for nurses and indeed the entire HSC workforce.

‘The department has been addressing the nursing shortages through a range of measures. Significantly, it has increased investment in pre-registration training from 709 places in 2015-16 to an all-time high of 1,025 places in 2019-20.

‘We are therefore disappointed by the RCN’s announcement, particularly as talks on the refresh of Agenda for Change pay, terms and conditions are continuing with HSC employers and trade unions, including the RCN.’

Northern Ireland pay compares unfavourably with neighbours

Nursing pay in Northern Ireland has lagged behind other UK nations, even after a Department of Health-imposed pay increase earlier this year.

Under current pay scales, a newly qualified nurse in Northern Ireland will earn £22,795, compared with £24,670 in Scotland, and £24,214 in England and Wales.


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