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Nurses in Northern Ireland could face ballot on industrial action

RCN will decide on whether to push for vote on industrial action within days 

RCN members in Northern Ireland could be balloted shortly on whether to take industrial action over NHS pay.

The college’s Northern Ireland board is expected to make a decision next week on whether to put the question of action short of a strike to a members' vote. 

RCN council chair Michael Brown said the board's members shared the 'sense of unfairness' felt by nurses in Northern Ireland over the fact the province is the only part of the UK not to have had an NHS pay award.

RCN Northern Ireland director Janice Smyth has criticised the Stormont administration for failing to make a pay award in 2015/16, despite being more than half-way through the financial year. 

She said pay awards of 1% have been made to other public servants such as teachers, police and firefighters, and nurses are seeing their standard of living fall, 'with no sign of light at the end of the tunnel’.

Mr Brown said: ‘We fully support our colleagues in Northern Ireland in their negotiations, and have given them the authority to ballot if necessary for industrial action short of a strike. We agreed that any such action should be planned to ensure patient safety is not compromised in any way.

‘We recognise that many other public sector workers in Northern Ireland have had a pay settlement, and it is wrong nursing staff have been left for so long without an agreement.’

The RCN has around 14,400 members in Northern Ireland. 

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