Nurses on Agenda for Change contracts in Northern Ireland are set to strike next week after waiting several months to be given the 2023/24 pay deal, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has announced.
RCN members working for Health and Social Care – Northern Ireland’s publicly funded healthcare system – will take to the picket lines on 18 January alongside other trade unions in a fight for pay parity with NHS nursing staff in England.
With no functioning assembly and executive in Northern Ireland, and with what the RCN has described as ‘inaction’ from the secretary of state for the country, the 2023-24 Agenda for Change pay offer has not been given to nursing staff.
The RCN said members in Northern Ireland had now been waiting nine months for implementation of the deal and that it had been ‘widely reported that the funds for the pay offer had been made available’.
Health and Social Care nurses in Northern Ireland first took to the picket lines in a fight for pay parity with colleagues in England and Wales in 2019/20.
Rita Devlin, director of the RCN in Northern Ireland, said: ‘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.’
She added: ‘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.’
Nurses in Northern Ireland were balloted by the RCN in October and November 2022, and voted ‘overwhelmingly’ to take strike action.
Other unions taking strike action on 18 January include Unison, Unite and the Royal College of Midwives, among others.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health in Northern Ireland said: ‘The Department of Health fully understands the scale of the frustration among health and care staff about pay.
‘Unfortunately, the 2023/24 health budget provided no scope for a pay offer to be tabled for this year. This is not a sustainable situation.
‘The department continues to do all it can to be able to make a fair pay offer to health and social care staff.’