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‘Immediate’ industrial action ballot looms in Northern Ireland if NHS pay talks fail

Nurses in Northern Ireland are paid less than in the rest of the UK

Nurses in Northern Ireland's NHS are paid less than in the rest of the UK


Pat Cullen, director of RCN Northern Ireland

A ballot for industrial action will go ahead if pay talks between government officials and health unions fail, RCN Northern Ireland's director warns.

The college, with Unison, Unite and the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance union will meet civil servants in coming weeks for talks. They want pay parity with Scotland, where NHS salaries are higher than those in the rest of the UK.

Real-terms pay cut

Nurses' pay in Northern Ireland continues to fall behind levels the UK as a whole, and its real-terms value has fallen by 15% over the past eight years.

In March, a long-awaited 1.5% pay rise left 787 NHS employees feeling worse off by pushing them into a higher pension bracket. 

‘The public are surprised nurses in Northern Ireland are paid less for doing the same job. There is no doubt the public are behind the position we are taking’

Pat Cullen, director, RCN Northern Ireland

The RCN said there are now more than 2,500 nursing and healthcare assistant vacancies in Northern Ireland's NHS, making the shortage a public safety issue. 

RCN Northern Ireland Pat Cullen told Nursing Standard: 'If the talks are not productive and nurses see no rise coming their way, we will immediately move to ballot for industrial action and/or strike’.

Head of bargaining and representation for Unison Northern Ireland Anne Speed confirmed: 'We are discussing with the Department of Health having the same pay value as nurses in Scotland.'

The Northern Ireland pay gap 2018/19

Newly qualified band 5 nurse

  • Northern Ireland: 22,795
  • England and Wales: 24,214
  • Scotland: 24,670

Experienced band 5 nurse

  • Northern Ireland: 29,315
  • England and Wales: 30,112
  • Scotland: 30,742

Newly qualified band 6 nurse

  • Northern Ireland: 27,772
  • England and Wales: 30,401
  • Scotland: 30,401

Experienced band 6 nurse

  • Northern Ireland: 36,280
  • England and Wales: 37,267
  • Scotland: 38,046

Source: RCN Northern Ireland pay campaign (2019) 

 

‘Our members are saying enough is enough’

The RCN has been attempting to garner support in the community with a series of public meetings.

Ms Cullen added: 'The public were surprised nurses in Northern Ireland would be paid less than in the rest of the UK for doing the same job. There is no doubt the public are behind the position we are taking.

‘We’ve provided evidence to the pay review body, to numerous health committees. We have now come to a position where we are saying enough is enough. That is our members saying it.’  

The talks are due to conclude at the end of June.


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