The continuing absence of a 2018-2019 pay award has once again highlighted the inequality experienced by nurses and other health staff in Northern Ireland.
Nurses in England, Scotland and Wales have already received their pay awards for the current year, backdated to April. Yet in Northern Ireland, no pay award has been made. This means, for example, that a newly-qualified band 5 staff nurse in Northern Ireland is now paid £1,113 less than the same nurse in England and £1,203 less than in Scotland each year. An experienced band 5 staff nurse is now paid £1,146 less than a counterpart in England and £1,443 less than in Scotland each year. A typical health care assistant in Northern Ireland is now paid £927 less than a colleague in England and £1,695 less than in Scotland each year. An experienced specialist nurse in Northern Ireland is now paid £1,667 per annum less than a counterpart in England and £2,097 less than in Scotland each year.
We have a severe shortage of nursing staff in Northern Ireland, as the latest (June 2017) available figures from the Department of Health illustrate, with at least 1,828 nursing vacancies in the HSC and around the same number estimated in the independent sector. Despite the recent welcome increase in pre-registration student nurse places, we are not training enough nurses, and increasing numbers are going elsewhere to find employment with better terms and conditions. The impact of this upon patient care in Northern Ireland is devastating.
The RCN has taken the unprecedented step of asking members working within the HSC in Northern Ireland if they are prepared to be balloted formally on industrial action over the continuing absence of any pay award for 2018-2019. If you work in the HSC on an Agenda for Change contract, you should have received an email from the RCN on Monday 12 November inviting you to share your view on this proposal. If you didn’t receive the email, or can’t locate it, but believe you are eligible to vote, you can complete the survey here.
You have until Monday 26 November to share your views. If you are an RCN member working in the HSC, please make sure that you use your voice to help secure fair pay for Northern Ireland nurses.