Nurses’ strikes suspended: RCN and Unison to consult members on pay and staffing deal

Unions suspend industrial action after securing offer in crunch talks with Northern Ireland health minister

Unions suspend industrial action after securing offer in crunch talks with Northern Ireland health minister

RCN Northern Ireland director Pat Cullen, centre in green, with members on a picket line
outside the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast  Picture: PA

Nurses' unions in Northern Ireland have called off strikes next week after securing promises over pay and safe staffing.

RCN and Unison members were due to strike next Monday, Wednesday and Friday in a series of walkouts that began before Christmas. They have been working-to-rule since November.

Health minister’s offer on pay and staffing levels

The unions will now consult members on a deal proposed by health minister Robin Swann, which offers NHS nurses pay parity with counterparts in England and Wales, and makes commitments on safe staffing.

RCN Northern Ireland director Pat Cullen said: 'Following the unprecedented decision to take strike action, our members finally have something concrete to consider.

'The progress this week is testament to having political leadership in place.' 

 Read striking nurse’s shift diary

The proposed deal was one of the first actions of the new Northern Ireland government, after a three-year suspension of all business due to political wrangling.

‘In the public interest and with the public’s support’

Ms Cullen added she was 'immensely proud' of nurses' determination to improve conditions not just for themselves, but for patients too.

RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said there were wider lessons to take from the Northern Ireland industrial action. 

'There are lessons for governments, politicians and employers everywhere: nurses will increasingly take a tough stand for what’s right and, when they do, the public are in full support,' she said.

Unison head of bargaining said the union will ballot members on its recommendation to accept the offer.

NHS pay fell behind during three years of political impasse

Pay in Northern Ireland's NHS has lagged behind the rest of the UK during the period of suspended government.

Newly-qualified nurses earn £22,795, while opposite numbers in England and Wales start on £24,214.

There are 2,800 vacant NHS nursing posts in Northern Ireland.

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