RCN commits to ballot nurses on industrial action
Northern Ireland nurses will be balloted after not receiving a pay increase in 2015/16
RCN Northern Ireland has made a commitment to ballot its members on industrial action over the failure of the government to issue a pay rise.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where nurses have not had a pay award for 2015/16. An experienced staff nurse in Northern Ireland is now paid £279 a year less than in England and £561 a year less than in Scotland.
RCN Northern Ireland director Janice Smyth said: 'The message that the care they provide to the people of Northern Ireland is not valued is being made loud and clear.'
The RCN has ruled out strike action, but nurses may refuse to work unpaid hours and to complete tasks not directly related to nursing care.
Ms Smyth added: 'The decision to ballot our members was not taken lightly. When we end up in a situation where there appears to be no alternative to industrial action, then we know that nursing staff have been pushed to the limit.'
She said that nurses were now 10% worse off in real terms compared with 2008 and that the RCN had tried unsuccessfully to discuss nurses’ pay with the Northern Ireland Executive.
Ms Smyth said: 'Nurses and healthcare assistants are committed and dedicated to the care of patients. This is borne out in practice when, as a result of trying to provide nursing care in a system that is not fit for purpose, they often take on additional roles to ensure the effective delivery of services.'
A spokesperson for Northern Ireland's Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety said: 'While members’ right to take industrial action is fully recognised, any strike action would be regrettable.
'Health minister Simon Hamilton values the essential role that nurses and midwives play in the continued provision of a high standard of care in Northern Ireland. His priority is the delivery of high quality safe and effective services for patients and clients.
'His department is keen to progress discussions with health and social care trade unions and it is important to highlight that decisions on the 2015/16 health and social care pay award have not yet been made.
'These discussions will help inform a decision.'