The campaign sought to overturn the UK Treasury-imposed 1% cap on public sector pay awards. This meant that the real value of nurses’ pay across the UK had fallen by up to 14% since 2010 and further in Northern Ireland.
The Scrap the Cap campaign focused on engagement with RCN members across Northern Ireland and meetings between RCN members and Northern Ireland MPs in order to outline and articulate members’ anger about the impact of the pay cap.
Following the announcement by the Secretary of State for Health in October 2017 that the pay cap has been scrapped, the RCN has been campaigning to address the 2-3% gap between nurses’ pay in Northern Ireland and that in the rest of the UK. The pay gaps are putting patient care at risk. They devalue nurses and nursing, meaning that people are not joining the profession and forcing many to leave. Because there are not enough nurses, patients cannot get the care they need.
The RCN and other trade unions have now agreed a new pay deal for NHS staff in England. In Scotland and Wales, similar pay deals are currently the subject of consultation.
In Northern Ireland, however, we currently have no Assembly, no Executive and no public sector pay policy for 2018-2019. The Department of Health has stated that, under these circumstances, it is unable to commit to any undertaking in relation to pay. The RCN, along with other trade unions, is now working with the Department of Health to scope what a similar pay deal might look like in Northern Ireland. In the continuing absence of accountable political leadership, the prospect of any such deal being implemented remains remote.
Any pay campaign in Northern Ireland needs to address the political situation, as well as its impact upon the health and social care system, and on nurses and nursing within that system. We also need to consider existing variances in Agenda for Change terms and conditions, and what a good pay deal for nurses would look like here in Northern Ireland. We are therefore implementing a new phase of our pay campaign that acknowledges both the need to address pay inequalities in Northern Ireland and also takes account of the political environment with which we are confronted.You can help by joining the campaign to let other RCN members, politicians and the wider public in Northern Ireland know why we must close the gaps to promote fair pay for Northern Ireland nurses.