Nurses in Northern Ireland announce Christmas strike date

Walkout will be the first in RCN history – as Unison members plan industrial action too

Walkout will be the first in RCN history – as Unison members plan industrial action too

Picture: John Houlihan

Nurses in Northern Ireland will go on strike the week before Christmas if the two sides in their staffing and pay dispute fail to break the deadlock.

RCN members on Agenda for Change contracts will stage a 12-hour walkout from NHS services on December 18 after a ballot of 8,000 nurses. If it goes ahead, this will be the first such action in the college's 103-year history.

RCN Northern Ireland director Pat Cullen said of a strike so close to Christmas 'regrettable'.


of RCN NHS members voted to go out on strike. Turnout was 43.3%

Source: RCN Northern Ireland

Timetable for nurses’ industrial action

The nurses plan to build up to their walkout with three days of lower-level industrial action, on 3, 10 and 11 December.

RCN members will not undertake any non-patient specific tasks on those days, including: 

  • Working bank, overtime or unpaid hours
  • Completing paperwork, or administrative tasks, other than completing individual patient records
  • Answering ward telephones and attending bed management or similar meetings
  • Preparing or cleaning beds when a patient is discharged
  • Collecting prescriptions, pharmacy or blood samples in the community

Nurses in Unison have already voted for November industrial action over pay and staff shortages

The news comes days after Unison announced its members intend to take industrial action later this month, after 92% of those taking part in a ballot voted to walk out.

NHS nurses in Northern Ireland are the lowest-paid in the health service and have long borne the burden of staffing shortages. A newly qualified nurse there earns £22,795 while counterparts in England and Wales start on £24,214.


of RCN members voted for industrial action, including a ban on overtime

Source: RCN Northern Ireland

College director Ms Cullen said: 'While no nurse wants to take this action, unfortunately we have been left with no choice and are now carrying out the instructions our members have clearly voted for.' 

    Department of Health's ability to improve nurse pay 'constrained by intense budget pressures'

    The Northern Ireland Department of Health – which has been forced to run without ministers since the collapse of the Stormont government in January 2017 – said it was finalising a formal pay offer.

    A spokesperson said: 'The reality is our ability to address pay issues is inevitably constrained at a time of intense budgetary pressures for health and social care services.

    'We have been highlighting these pressures for some considerable time.'

    In other news

    This is a free article for registered users

    This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this? You can register for free access.