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Nurse strike: docked pay still not reimbursed

Northern Ireland nurses still waiting for wages to be repaid after pay parity strike action
Healthcare worked in Belfast on strike in January over pay and staffing levels

Northern Ireland nurses still waiting for wages to be repaid after pay parity strike action

Nurses in Northern Ireland who had their pay docked for going on strike are still waiting to be reimbursed, despite a government promise they would be.

Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann says he is seeking legal advice from the attorney general on the matter.

Strike action over pay parity

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

Northern Ireland nurses still waiting for wages to be repaid after pay parity strike action

Healthcare worked in Belfast on strike in January over pay and staffing levels
Healthcare staff on strike in Belfast in January over pay and staffing levels Picture: Alamy

Nurses in Northern Ireland who had their pay docked for going on strike are still waiting to be reimbursed, despite a government promise they would be.

Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann says he is seeking legal advice from the attorney general on the matter.

Strike action over pay parity

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 there earning £22,795, while their counterparts in England and Wales started on £24,214.

At the time, there were 2,800 vacant NHS nursing posts in Northern Ireland. The latest figures, released in June, put this figure at 2,026.

Recognising the work of the health service

RCN and Unison members were successful in their strike action, with a deal on pay parity offered to NHS nurses in Northern Ireland and new commitments to safe staffing made.

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

RCN Northern Ireland director Pat Cullen
RCN Northern Ireland director Pat Cullen

Finance minister Conor Murphy announced in May that £1.64 million had been allocated to cover the docked pay, but nothing has happened since then.

Mr Swann told a news conference last week he is keen to take the next step in recognition of the work of the health service, but wants to be sure it will not set a precedent that might have a long-lasting impact on budgets.

No further clarity was available from the department of health about how long it will take to secure the legal advice being sought, or if nurses will be reimbursed this year.

However, a spokesperson said: ‘The department values greatly the skill, dedication and hard work of nurses and all health and social care staff, and remains committed to ensuring fair pay for all our healthcare staff.’

Reinstating pay has been raised ‘time and time again’

RCN Northern Ireland director Pat Cullen said: ‘It has been six months since the finance minister announced that funding had been secured to reinstate pay lost by nurses and other healthcare workers during three days of strike action. Nurses were relieved and reassured by the minister’s announcement and it was a welcome boost for nursing staff working on the front line. For once, nurses felt that they were being valued.’

Ms Cullen said it is disappointing that the money has still not been released. ‘We have raised this issue time and time again but are at a loss as to why something that was announced so publicly has simply not happened.’


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