Nursing staff in Northern Ireland have been left with no choice but to take to the picket lines once more on 18 January, as their pay again falls behind colleagues in other parts of the UK.
Over the past 9 months, RCN members in Northern Ireland employed under Agenda for Change (AfC) terms and conditions have waited patiently for the implementation of the 2023-2024 AfC pay offer. During this period, politicians have had ample time and space to come to an agreement.
However, with no functioning Assembly and Executive in Northern Ireland, and inaction from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the pay offer has not been given to nursing staff, and once again they have fallen behind colleagues in England.
Last month it was widely reported that the financial package negotiated between the Secretary of State and the five main political parties included an allocation to facilitate a pay offer. The RCN Northern Ireland Board met yesterday (4 January) to discuss this development and has come to the conclusion that our members’ patience has now been exhausted, particularly since the money is available to make this pay offer.
Director of the RCN in Northern Ireland, Rita Devlin, said: “It has been four years since nurses in Northern Ireland first took strike action to ensure pay parity with colleagues in England and Wales. It is nothing short of immoral that we have been put in this position once again and are the lowest paid nursing staff in the UK. What an indictment on how we treat health care workers and the value we place on them.
“Just this week our emergency departments, once again, have been struggling to cope with the numbers of very sick patients who need treatment. And who are we depending upon to meet that challenge?
“Low pay is making it very difficult to retain nursing staff in the health service and we are not willing to tolerate this any longer. Patients and staff are suffering every single day due to the lack of political movement which not only affects pay but prevents the transformation of services that has been needed for years. We have no choice but to take further action.”