Royal College of Nurses in NI to ballot members on possible strike
The Royal College of Nurses (RCN) in Northern Ireland has decided to ballot members working in the local health service on possible strike action.
It said it has taken the step because of a nurse staffing crisis in Northern Ireland.
The RCN said there were 2,600 unfilled nursing posts across NI's health system and that pay continues to fall behind the rest of the UK.
The Department of Health said it was "disappointed" at the announcement.
It said talks on these issues had been continuing with health service employers and trade unions, including the RCN.
The RCN's Northern Ireland chair, Fiona Devlin, said the decision to ballot members was "unprecedented" in the organisation's history.
'Proactively addressing' issues
"Members of the RCN Northern Ireland board have been left with no option but to ballot RCN members in Northern Ireland as a result of the total inaction to address the staffing crisis facing health care in Northern Ireland," she said.
"This situation is compounded by nurses in Northern Ireland being the lowest paid across the UK."
RCN Northern Ireland director Pat Cullen said it was making preparations to ballot members in the coming weeks.
In a statement, the Department of Health said it "takes seriously the concerns of RCN membership".
It added that it had been "proactively addressing the nursing shortages through a range of measures".
"We are therefore disappointed at the RCN's announcement, particularly as talks on the refresh of Agenda for Change pay, terms and conditions are continuing with health and social care employers and trade unions, including the RCN.
"The department remains engaged in this process and, as ever, is willing to talk with trade unions at any time."