In partnership with the other health trade unions in Northern Ireland, this was put to the Department of Health and HSC employers in a formal proposal on 26 September 2018.
The Department of Health unilaterally announced a formal pay offer for staff on 22 November 2018. The RCN recognises that low-paid staff will, under this award, receive the national minimum living wage. Nurses support this move and the RCN commends it. However, for the majority of our members, the pay award announced in November falls significantly short of the 3% minimum proposal. A significant number of nurses will receive a 1.5% pay uplift, equating to between £7.50 and £8.50 per week. Furthermore, it denies many nurses and other staff the incremental pay progression to which they are contractually entitled.
This pay announcement must be viewed in the context of the growing pay gap between Northern Ireland and the other countries of the UK, where three-year pay deals have been agreed. All of this is taking place at a time when we have 2,325 vacant nursing posts in the HSC and when the cost of employing nurses via nursing agencies has grown from £10 million in 2012-2013 to £32 million in 2017-2018, with up to 40% of this money going directly to the agencies rather than in to nurses’ pay.
In November, the RCN conducted a consultative ballot of members employed by the HSC on Agenda for Change contracts in Northern Ireland. Our members made it overwhelmingly clear that, if agreement on pay could not be reached, they are prepared to be balloted for industrial action. Under the direction of the RCN Northern Ireland Board, the Trade Union Committee of RCN Council, and RCN Council we continue to make preparations for this ballot and further information will be published early in January.