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Pay dispute declared in Northern Ireland over ‘unacceptable’ offer

RCN declares formal dispute, saying nurses reject 3% pay offer and feel exhausted, disenfranchised and undervalued
Nurses on a picket line at Ulster Hospital in January 2020, when RCN members staged a second 12-hour walkout as part of a dispute over pay parity and safe staffing

RCN declares formal dispute, saying nurses reject 3% pay offer and feel exhausted, disenfranchised and undervalued

The RCN in Northern Ireland has entered into a formal dispute over pay after members made it clear they were not happy with a 3% wage increase.

The college said it had today notified the Department of Health Northern Ireland, health and social care employers and the Northern Ireland Executive that they were in a formal trade dispute.

The move follows a consultative ballot earlier this year in which 92.2% of eligible members who took part said the 2021-22

RCN declares formal dispute, saying nurses reject 3% pay offer and feel exhausted, disenfranchised and undervalued

Nurses on a picket line at Ulster Hospital in January 2020, when RCN members staged a second 12-hour walkout as part of a dispute over pay parity and safe staffing
Nurses on a picket line at Ulster Hospital in January 2020, when RCN members staged a second 12-hour walkout as part of a dispute over pay parity and safe staffing Picture: Alamy

The RCN in Northern Ireland has entered into a formal dispute over pay after members made it clear they were not happy with a 3% wage increase.

The college said it had today notified the Department of Health Northern Ireland, health and social care employers and the Northern Ireland Executive that they were in a formal trade dispute.

The move follows a consultative ballot earlier this year in which 92.2% of eligible members who took part said the 2021-22 pay award for Agenda for Change staff was unacceptable.

The 3% pay offer – confirmed by the Northern Ireland Executive in November – was supplemented by a one-off payment of between 0.5% to 1.5% that varied by pay band. However, it still fell far short of the 12.5% increase for all nursing staff the RCN has been calling for.

The decision to enter into a trade dispute comes amid a cost of living crisis that has seen some nurses struggling to pay for basics like food and heating.

Nurses in Northern Ireland were first in history of RCN to go on strike over pay

Chair of the RCN Northern Ireland board Fiona Devlin said: ‘Our demand in Northern Ireland, as elsewhere across the UK, was for a significant and restorative pay rise that applied equally across all Agenda for Change bands.

‘Nursing pay has not kept pace with the cost of living and we have serious concerns about the impact of this on the recruitment and retention of the nursing workforce.’

In 2019, RCN members in Northern Ireland became the first in the college’s history to go on strike because they were dissatisfied with pay.

Ms Devlin said the decision to once again enter into a formal trade dispute had not been taken lightly. ‘This is not a step that we take lightly but our members are exhausted, disenfranchised and have been left feeling undervalued,’ she said.

The pandemic has exacerbated existing staffing shortages and ramped up pressure on nurses, who have raised serious concerns about the impact on patient care.

RCN Northern Ireland director Rita Devlin said: ‘Nursing is a safety critical profession and today’s action is a formal expression of the frustration and concern for patient safety that nurses are experiencing every day.’

The Department of Health confirmed it had received the notification from the RCN. A spokesperson said the department had accepted in full the recommendations of the UK-wide NHS Pay Review Body for a 3% award in 2021-22 in line with that for England and Wales.

The department is currently awaiting the pay review body’s recommendations for the 2022-23 pay round.

Pay situation in England, Wales and Scotland

An RCN England and Wales indicative ballot revealed half of nurses who took part would be willing to take strike action over the 3% pay offer for 2021-22, with 84% saying they were willing to take industrial action short of a strike.

Nurses in Scotland have said they are prepared to strike over their 4% pay offer for the same year, with 60% of RCN Scotland members who voted in an indicative ballot supporting strike action.

The NHS Pay Review Body was due to hand down its recommendations for the 2022-23 NHS pay round in May. The government had advised a maximum pay rise of 3%.


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