Northern Ireland pay dispute: nurses vote on industrial action – including a strike

RCN warns that staff could leave to work elsewhere if wage disparity remains unresolved

RCN warns that staff will leave to work elsewhere if wage disparity remains unresolved

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The ballot has opened for RCN members in Northern Ireland to vote on whether to take industrial action, including strike action, over pay.

The college called for the vote after negotiations with the Department of Health in Northern Ireland (DHNI) broke down.

It had requested pay parity between nurses working in Northern Ireland and those in England and Wales, but the DHNI refused.

A newly qualified nurse in Northern Ireland earns £22,795, compared with £24,214 in England and Wales.  

Nurses would make history if they choose to strike

RCN members working in the country’s Health and Social Care service can vote from now until 6 November.

In the ballot, nurses are asked if they support industrial action short of a strike, and, separately, if they would support a strike.

If the nurses do go on strike, they would be the first to do so in their union’s history.

Industrial action could take place before the end of the year

Examples of industrial action short of a strike include working to rule and refusing to do perform certain duties, such as administrative tasks not associated with patient care.

If the majority of members vote for industrial action, it will commence within four weeks of the ballot closing, either in late November or early December.

Wage inequality is factor in low staffing levels, RCN says

RCN Northern Ireland director Pat Cullen said the pay disparity is partly to blame for the 3,000 unfilled nursing posts in the country.

‘Nurses can go anywhere to work and we fear that, unless this situation is resolved quickly, it will only get worse as our newly-qualified nurses choose to practise elsewhere in the UK and beyond,’ she said.

‘No nurse wants to take industrial action or strike action, but low staffing levels pose unacceptable risks to patients, nursing staff, and the people of Northern Ireland.

‘We have simply been left with no choice.’

Department of Health says it cannot meet pay demands

A DHNI spokesperson said the college was asking the impossible, considering the country’s government has been suspended.

‘The RCN is making demands it knows the department cannot meet,’ they said.

‘We do not have the authority to overturn ministerial decisions on localised NI pay rates, nor can we make cuts to services to fund the pay increase being sought.’

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