Nurses’ pay dispute: unions to meet new health minister in bid to avert further strikes

Fresh hope for end to pay and staffing dispute in Northern Ireland

Fresh hope for end to pay and staffing dispute in Northern Ireland

Striking nurses picket the Ulster Hospital, which is within walking distance of Stormont, 
Northern Ireland’s seat of government  Picture: PA

Nurses' representatives are expected to meet a health minister tomorrow in a bid to resolve the pay and staffing dispute that brought NHS staff out on strike.

The meeting between the RCN, Unison and the minister comes after historic strikes by nurses in Northern Ireland over pay and staffing, with more industrial action scheduled for 20, 22 and 24 January if agreement is not reached.

Political breakthrough comes with commitment over NHS pay parity

The negotiation is now possible because government has been restored to Northern Ireland for the first time in three years as part of a deal that has been called New Decade, New Approach. This deal includes a commitment to introduce pay parity between nurses in Northern Ireland and those in England and Wales.

What the striking nurses want

  • Pay parity with colleagues in England and Wales. Newly qualified nurses in the NHS in Northern Ireland earn £22,795, while their counterparts in England and Wales start on £24,214
  • Staffing levels to be addressed to fill the 2,800 vacant nursing posts in Northern Ireland's NHS


Safe staffing 'as important as pay parity' in Northern Ireland NHS

RCN Northern Ireland director Pat Cullen said: 'Of equal importance to pay parity are the issues we have outlined in relation to safe staffing, and ensuring we have the nursing workforce in place to deliver the reform our health services so badly need.

'If we are able to get a formal assurance from our new health minister that our requirements will be met, we may be in a position to suspend further industrial action.’

New Stormont health minister Robin Swann. Picture: PA

Mr Swann said: 'I'm looking forward to getting this dispute sorted right away. Obviously, the financial package for the new executive and support from other ministerial colleagues will be central to making that happen.'

RCN and Unison members in Northern Ireland have gone on strike five times since December, as well as working to rule in November and December. 

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