Pay parity for nurses in Northern Ireland within reach under proposed deal

UK and Irish governments table power sharing deal with commitments on NHS pay and staffing

UK and Irish governments table power sharing deal with commitments on NHS pay and staffing

RCN members striking at Mid Ulster Hospital in Northern Ireland
RCN members on the picket line today at Mid Ulster Hospital Picture: Twitter

A deal that would give NHS nurses in Northern Ireland the pay parity they have been seeking has been proposed by the UK and Irish governments.  

The proposed deal was announced ahead of another round of strike action today by an estimated 9,000 RCN members, for 12 hours from 8am to 8pm.

They were joined by 10,000 Unison members who are also striking today from 12am until midnight.

The action follows strikes on 8 January 2020 and 18 December 2019, which was the first in the RCN’s 103-year history.

In an announcement yesterday the UK and Irish governments tabled a deal for political parties in Northern Ireland to restore power sharing.

Northern Ireland’s devolved government collapsed in January 2017, and its Department of Health has run without ministerial leadership since that time.

Proposed deal includes pay parity

The proposed deal, entitled New Decade, New Approach, includes a commitment to introduce pay parity between nurses in Northern Ireland and those in England and Wales.

RCN director of Northern Ireland Pat Cullen said despite speculation political parties may reach a deal, the strike will not cease until written confirmation of safe staffing and pay parity is in place.  

‘The RCN has written to party leaders urging them to ensure that our devolved institutions are restored with immediate effect and that decisive and immediate action be taken to avoid the necessity of further industrial action,’ she said.  

What striking nurses are demanding

Nurses in Northern Ireland are demanding pay parity with their colleagues in England and Wales.

Newly qualified nurses in Northern Ireland earn £22,795, while their counterparts in England and Wales start on £24,214.

Nurses are also calling for staffing levels to be addressed to fill the 2,800 vacant nursing posts in Northern Ireland.


Further strike action planned

The RCN is currently planning further strike action on 20, 22 and 24 January.

Unison regional secretary Patricia McKeown said: ‘Should the political process fail, we will pursue Julian Smith [secretary of state for Northern Ireland] to act in the public interest, make the resources available and instruct the Department of Health to restore pay parity. If the money is there, it should be released without delay.

‘There should be no more games,’ she added.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

 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.