Now that the 1% cap on nurses’ pay has been scrapped, thanks to the magnificent efforts of our members in Northern Ireland and across the UK, the RCN in Northern Ireland is now moving ahead with the next phase of our pay campaign. Close the gaps focuses on restoring the real value of nurses’ pay in light of the 14% decline since 2010 and on addressing the average 2-3% gap between nurses’ pay here in Northern Ireland and that in the rest of the UK.
Our first priority, however, is campaigning for the 1% 2017-2018 pay award to be implemented in Northern Ireland. This award was announced in March 2017 and has been paid to nurses in England, Scotland and Wales since April 2017. It is shameful and unacceptable that nurses in Northern Ireland are still waiting.
The Northern Ireland Department of Health claims that the implementation of the pay award requires ministerial approval and that, because of the absence of a Health Minister in Northern Ireland during the current political stalemate, it is not possible to pay the 1% uplift. The RCN is no longer prepared to accept this as an excuse for failing to treat Northern Ireland nurses on a basis of equality with colleagues across the UK.
The RCN is working hard behind the scenes to ensure that the award is implemented but, given the political vacuum currently existing in Northern Ireland, this is not a straightforward process. We need RCN members to speak out and demand the right to receive the pay award to which they are entitled without any further prevarication or delay. Please get active on social media, write to your local MP or MLA, add your voice to media coverage of the issue, and use every opportunity you can to help ensure that Northern Ireland nurses are finally treated with some semblance of respect and integrity by the Department of Health in honouring a pay award which is long overdue.