Nurses in Northern Ireland offered pay parity with England and Wales

Government also gives commitments on safe staffing following historic strike action

Government also gives commitments on safe staffing

Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann (second from left) announces the pay offer with (from left) first minister Arlene Foster, deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill and finance minister Conor Murphy. Picture: PA

The government in Northern Ireland has offered nurses pay parity with England and Wales, following historic strikes and the recent reconvening of the country’s Executive.

RCN and Unison members have staged five walkouts since December over pay and safe staffing, as well as working to rule in the last two months of 2019.

Trade union representatives met with health minister Robin Swann today, who outlined the new offer that includes commitments on safe staffing and the restoration of pay parity with England and Wales.

Pay in Northern Ireland has fallen behind the rest of the UK after three years without government. Newly qualified nurses in the NHS in Northern Ireland earn £22,795, while their counterparts in England and Wales start on £24,214.

In terms of staffing, there are 2,800 vacant NHS nursing posts in Northern Ireland.

Mr Swann said: ‘Our nurses and other great health and social care staff can come off the picket line, and can get back to the jobs that they love and do so well.’

Further strikes may be cancelled

RCN Northern Ireland director Pat Cullen said the college would formally consider the offer on pay and staffing at a board meeting on Thursday.

‘On receipt of this correspondence, the suspension of strike action scheduled for next week [on 20, 22 and 24 January] may be proposed.

‘Resolving the difficulties in relation to safe staffing has been at the forefront of concerns for RCN members, and we made it clear to the minister that this issue must be dealt with urgently.

‘He has committed to a costed implementation plan for safe staffing.’

Ms Cullen said added that she hoped the offer would mark the start of a new era for health in Northern Ireland, ‘and that nurses, who are instrumental in this process, will be given the resources required to get the job done’.

Union is optimistic about resolution of dispute

Unison’s representatives in the health service will also meet on Thursday to consider their response.

The union’s head of bargaining and representation Anne Speed said she was optimistic that an agreement could be reached and the dispute resolved.

Finance minister Conor Murphy said his department had secured an extra £30m from existing treasury finances that was required to restore pay parity.

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