Published by BBC NEWS - 26th February 2024
  • Published
Female workers on strike, at Belfast rallyImage source, Pacemaker

Unions representing healthcare workers in Northern Ireland are to ballot their members on a pay deal.

The proposed settlement would see the restoration of pay parity with England, and includes an uplift of 5% and a one-off payment of £1,505.

Unison, which represents thousands of workers, said months of industrial action had “finally yielded a result”.

Health Minister Robin Swann welcomed the news as “a positive step” towards reaching a pay settlement.

“I commend the constructive negotiations that have taken place with trade unions,” he said.

“Staff are the backbone of health and social care services and deserve to be properly rewarded for their work.”

He said pay settlements for 2023/24 were “long overdue, having been delayed by political and budgetary instability”, adding pay would be backdated to April 2023.

‘Considerable step forward’

Speaking to BBC News NI’s Good Morning Ulster, Patrick Mulholland from NIPSA said that the move was a “considerable step forward”.

However, there are still “loose ends that are not tied up; one around the issue of mileage and one around safe staffing”, he continued.

“We want to see strike action come to an end, but we are preparing for further strike action if it is necessary.”

Mr Mulholland said the pay deal is significant in itself, but in the wider context of public sector pay “it is the first rung in the ladder”.

Rita Devlin from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said that she feels “frustrated and disappointed with the lump sum, as it does not give our nurses parity with nurses in England”.

“My view is that we wanted parity with England, and the pay offer does not provide that,” she added.

Robin Swann

Image source, PA Media

Anne Speed from Unison said there was still more negotiation to be done as “we are still third on the league table of pay”.

“We always have the leverage of taking industrial action, if negotiations don’t go our way.”

Last year, nurses in England were offered a 5% pay rise and a one-off settlement of at least £1,655.

The RCN said it would be consulting members on the proposed pay settlement “shortly”.

Unite said it was “encouraging members to vote yes to accept this pay offer and end the pay dispute”.

“This offer ensures pay parity with NHS workers in England and Wales and will address safe staffing,” Brenda Stevenson from the union said.

On 18 January, nurses, midwives and healthcare workers took part along with other public sector workers in the largest strike in Northern Ireland for 50 years.

Last week, junior doctors in Northern Ireland voted to take strike action for the first time.

The result of the ballot would see junior doctors taking part in a 24-hour walkout from 6 to 7 March.

Transport strike suspended

Meanwhile, the Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd has welcomed the suspension of the transport strike which was due to begin on Tuesday 27 February and would have seen all bus, rail and glider services cancelled.

The 72-hour strike by transport workers from the The Unite, GMB and Siptu unions was struck off after Translink offered an improved pay offer.

On Monday, Davy Thompson from Unite said: “I don’t think its good enough in terms of the percentage but that’s the deal we have on the table.

“This is bite-sized chunks, we are going to a ballot we have suspended our action to allow that to happen, so let’s see what the next stages are off the back of that,” he added.

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