‘Give Northern Ireland’s nurses a pay rise or we’ll ballot for industrial action’

Unison urges Stormont officials to release money for NHS staff
Conor McCarthy

Unison urges Stormont officials to release money for NHS staff

Conor McCarthy of Unison NI. Picture: Barney Newman

Nurses in Northern Ireland's NHS will be balloted for industrial action if they do not receive a pay rise, says a health union.

Unison wants the civil service to use devolution money to fund a pay deal on a par with health service colleagues in England, Wales and Scotland.

Salary stagnation

But, the Department of Health Northern Ireland (DHNI) said it cannot take such a decision without a health secretary. Northern Ireland has been without a government since January 2017, when the power-sharing agreement broke down.

The deadlock has left nurses working in the NHS in Northern Ireland without a pay rise for more than two years.

Unison argues pay increases could be awarded to health and social care workers through money distributed via the Barnett Formula arrangements, following a pay deal in England.

The union insists a pay award in line with Agenda for Change (AfC) regulations would not require ministerial approval.

'Longest treatment waiting lists in the UK'

Unison NI health committee co-chair Conor McCarthy told Nursing Standard that pay stagnation was contributing to recruitment and retention problems, which in turn have led to some of the longest waiting lists in the UK for surgery and cancer treatment.

He added: ‘Make no mistake, if this money is not released very soon, Unison will be balloting our collective membership for industrial action.’

Pay disparity

A nurse in Northern Ireland at the top of AfC band 5 earns £28,462. Under the deals signed in England and Scotland for 2018/19, the same nurses would earn £29,608 and £29,905 respectively.

The RCN has called for Northern Ireland's nurses to receive pay parity with colleagues across the UK.

A DHNI spokesperson said the public sector pay budget for 2018/19 was still being work on by the finance department. Once this work is complete, the spokesperson said, it would be for other departments and public sector workers to put forward pay proposals.

The spokesperson added: ‘While DHNI officials cannot enter into formal negotiations, they are engaging with trade unions to keep a line of communication open.’

In other news