Nurses call for pay parity for Northern Ireland colleagues

Members say RCN should demand pay rises be awarded despite collapse of Northern Ireland government

RCN members called on the college to demand that nurses in Northern Ireland receive pay parity with their colleagues elsewhere in the UK.

RCN Northern Ireland board chair Fiona Devlin told congress ‘we are very much in
uncharted territory'. Picture: John Houlihan

In a unanimous vote at RCN congress in Belfast, members agreed the college should insist the permanent secretary of Northern Ireland’s Department of Health implement pay rises for nurses there, in the absence of a functioning government in Stormont.

The Northern Ireland Assembly has been suspended since January last year, as a results of political deadlock between the main political parties.

Jeanmary Richards speaking at
congress. Picture: John Houlihan

Jeanmary Richards of North Wales branch told congress: ‘Nurses in Northern Ireland are more likely than nurses in Scotland, England and Wales to cite increases in workload, unfilled vacancies and recruitment freezes in their workplace.’

She said nurses in Northern Ireland were also more likely than colleagues in the rest of the UK to work unsocial hours, to be paid less for those hours and to work additional hours.

No accountability

However, RCN Northern Ireland board chair Fiona Devlin told congress a High Court ruling on Monday had called into question civil servants’ ability to make major decisions in the absence of the assembly.

The court's decision to block a move by senior civil servants to approve an incinerator project throws into doubt the potential for a pay rise to be awarded without government returning.

‘We are very much in uncharted territory, with no political leadership or accountability,’ said Ms Devlin.

‘It is important for congress to understand the permanent secretary does not have the authority to agree or impose a pay deal for nurses and other NHS staff.'

'Disregard for nationally agreed terms'

RCN steward Kevin Bell said: ‘Since 2015, nurses in Northern Ireland have earned 2-3% less than our colleagues.

‘The current pay disparity is a flagrant disregard for our nationally agreed terms and conditions– the basic tenet of Agenda for Change is equal pay for work of equal value. When did we abandon this principle?'

RCN Northern Ireland southern branch secretary Colleen White said nurses in Northern Ireland work an unpaid week a year effectively, adding: ‘Are you having a laugh?’.

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