RCN Northern Ireland gets go-ahead for ballot on industrial action

Vacancies and lagging pay have become a public safety issue, college warns

Vacancies and lagging pay have become a public safety issue, college warns

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The RCN in Northern Ireland has been given the green light to ballot members over possible industrial action.

A meeting of the RCN UK Council on Wednesday agreed the RCN Northern Ireland Board could ballot members working in the Health and Social Care service on possible action, including strike action.

Patient safety and inferior pay

The college said there are more than 2,500 nursing and healthcare assistant vacancies in the Northern Ireland health service, and warned this has become a ‘public safety issue’.

It added that pay for nurses working in the country’s health service continues to fall behind that for nurses in other parts of the UK, and its real-terms value has fallen by 15% over the past eight years.

Pay awards in Northern Ireland have lagged behind those in the rest of the UK because the Stormont government has been suspended for more than two years due to a political impasse.

Public meetings planned

While details of any possible ballot are yet to be finalised, RCN Northern Ireland has announced it will stage a series of public meetings to raise awareness of the ‘crisis’ in safe staffing and nurse pay.

The meetings will take place next month (see box below for details), with one held in each health and social care trust area.

RCN Northern Ireland director Janice Smyth said: ‘The shortage of nursing staff has become a matter of public interest and a public safety issue, as nurses are raising their concerns that staffing shortages are affecting their ability to provide safe and effective care for patients.

‘Time to seek public support‘

‘It is time to explain to the people of Northern Ireland why nursing services are now at crisis point, how this situation has developed, and seek their support for the measures that the RCN believes are necessary to resolve this crisis.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said: 'Health and social care pay policy is a devolved issue. We have made clear that UK-wide pay parity in health and social care would involve significant budgetary and pay policy issues that would require ministerial and cross-departmental decisions.

'The department continues to face well documented budgetary pressures and cannot spend money it does not have. We were pleased to be able to finalise a 2018-19 pay award for health and social care staff and continue to invest in growing the nursing workforce.'

Where will the RCN Northern Ireland public meetings be?

The events take place from 7.30-9pm at the following venues:

  • Wednesday 8 May: Craigavon Civic Centre (Southern Health and Social Care Trust)
  • Thursday 9 May: Antrim Civic Centre (Northern Health and Social Care Trust)
  • Tuesday 14 May: Signal Centre, Bangor (South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust)
  • Wednesday 15 May: Guildhall, Derry/Londonderry (Western Health and Social Care Trust)
  • Thursday 16 May: Europa Hotel, Belfast (Belfast Health and Social Care Trust)


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