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Northern Ireland nurses to receive long-awaited strike payout in December wages

The decision to reimburse pay docked for strike action was made in March

The decision to reimburse pay docked for strike action was made in March

Nurses in Northern Ireland are to receive the pay that had been deducted for strike action in their December wages, the government has announced.

Department of Health finally approves payment of funds announced in March

Robin Swann

Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann announced that his proposal to reimburse nurses

The decision to reimburse pay docked for strike action was made in March

Community nurse Karen Bowes, care of the elderly nurse Karen Rees and renal nurse Jayne Bell on the picket line at the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald
From left: community nurse Karen Bowes, care of the elderly nurse Karen Rees and renal nurse Jayne Bell on the picket line at the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald

Nurses in Northern Ireland are to receive the pay that had been deducted for strike action in their December wages, the government has announced.

Department of Health finally approves payment of funds announced in March

Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann
Robin Swann

Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann announced that his proposal to reimburse nurses had been approved by the Northern Ireland Executive.

The nurses took strike action in December 2019 and January 2020 to demand pay parity with colleagues in England and Wales and to address safe staffing levels.

Nurse pay in Northern Ireland had fallen behind the rest of the UK, with newly qualified NHS nurses earning £22,795, while their counterparts in England and Wales started on £24,214.

In March, deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill announced that money docked for the three days of strike action would be repaid.

£1.64 million allocated to cover the payment

Finance minister Conor Murphy announced in May that £1.64 million had been allocated to cover the reimbursement and nurses have been waiting for the payment since then.

Mr Swann said he had worked hard to ‘find a way through these complexities’, involving legal considerations and the question of whether a ‘precedent could be set’ for industrial action from different workforces.

Ms O’Neill thanked staff for the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and said she hoped when they saw the reimbursed money in their pay packets they would ‘know just how much they are valued and respected’.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: ‘The minister has been assured that all staff will receive this before Christmas.’ Although, they added that ‘there may be the odd exception’.

RCN director criticises Department of Health for withholding the payment

RCN Northern Ireland director Pat Cullen
Pat Cullen

RCN Northern Ireland director Pat Cullen said: ‘While I know that every nurse and nursing assistant affected by this will be relieved that the Department of Health has finally released this money, the fact is that it was given to them by the Department of Finance in May.

‘Members have rightly been asking us for months why the Department of Health was withholding the payment.’

She explained it would ‘mean a lot to nursing staff if they didn’t have to fight so hard in the future to ensure that what has been promised is delivered’.

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