RCN criticises Northern Ireland pay award

College says 2015/16 award denies many nurses a cost of living pay rise

Nurses at the top of bands 5 and 6 in Northern Ireland will receive one-off lump sum payments of £279 and £345 respectively following the unveiling of the 2015/16 pay award. 

Northern Ireland (NI) is the last of the UK countries to give details of its wage decision.

Last Friday NI health minister Simon Hamilton announced the 1% non-consolidated payment for Agenda for Change (AfC) staff at the top of their pay bands. He said this will equate to an average of almost £300 each. Band 7 nurses will receive £406.

Mr Hamilton also said staff not at the top of their pay bands will receive an average 3.7% AfC spine point rise in incremental pay progression, equating to £1,588, and up to a maximum of £4,509. 

RCN Northern Ireland director Janice Smyth said the pay award had to honour ‘the cost of meeting any incremental increases that staff are contractually entitled to in accordance with their terms and conditions of employment’. 

She added: ‘He [Mr Hamilton] does not have any choice since it is their contractual right. The pay award issued denies a cost of living pay rise to many nurses and health and social care staff.’

Ms Smyth said the fact that the pay rise for those at the top of their bands is a one-off lump sum means that, in April, nurses will ‘return to 2011 pay rates and the differential in pay between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK will widen further’.

The RCN in Northern Ireland has been campaigning about the delay in announcing the 2015/16 award, and is due to ballot its members on January 25 on whether to take industrial action in support of a 1% pay rise. 

Its pay campaign sub-group is meeting today to consider the 2015/16 pay award and what impact it will have on their campaign.

Mr Hamilton said: ‘Despite the extremely constrained financial position, we have been able to identify the resources to match last year’s settlement and that announced for the Northern Ireland civil service for 2015/16.’

He said trade union representatives had been unwilling to move beyond seeking to reopen the 2014/15 pay settlement, and added that their pay demands would have cost NI's Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety close to £40 million, which he said was ‘simply unaffordable in current circumstances’.

He added: ‘I believe a pay award that gives staff at least a 1% increase represents a fair deal for health and social care workers.’ 


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