The RCN is taking the unprecedented step of asking members working within the HSC in Northern Ireland if they are prepared to be balloted on industrial action over the continuing absence of any pay award for 2018-2019.
This is a decision that we have taken reluctantly. Our colleagues in England, Scotland and Wales have already received their pay awards for the current year, backdated to April. Yet in Northern Ireland, once again, nurses have been left behind and taken for granted by the Department of Health.
You all know the consequences of this failure. Nurses’ pay in Northern Ireland has fallen significantly behind the other three UK countries, despite the fact that Agenda for Change is supposed to be a four country framework. We have unprecedented pressures within the health and social care system that are made even worse because of at least 1,800 vacant nursing posts across Northern Ireland.
The RCN, along with the other health trade unions in Northern Ireland, has been in discussion with the Department of Health for some months now in relation to a pay award for 2018-2019. We have asked the Department to fund an interim 3% pay award for HSC staff on Agenda for Change pay, terms and conditions. You can read the full details of this proposal on the RCN Northern Ireland pay campaign web pages.
The trade unions met with Department of Health officials and employers on 9 November 2018 to learn that a unilateral decision had been made as to the outcome of any pay deal here and a financial bid to the Department of Finance had been prepared and submitted on that basis. This bid fell well short of the interim proposal put to the Department and employers.
The trade unions are extremely disappointed at the lack of respect shown to the Joint Negotiating and Consultative Forum, to partnership working, collective leadership, co-production and design, and to them as representatives of staff employed in health and social care. Following due consideration, the collective trade unions determined that no further progress could be made at this time and that we should consult our members about a ballot for industrial action.
We believe that enough is enough. That is why we are asking all RCN members employed within the HSC on Agenda for Change contracts if they would be prepared to take industrial action in order to demand a fair pay award.
On Monday 12 November, you will have received an important e-mail from the RCN seeking your view on this proposal. Our future course of action in relation to your pay will be determined by what you tell us. It is vital that you let the RCN know your view.