Health unions vote to accept government pay offer

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Striking nursesImage source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
During the strike action thousands of appointments and procedures were postponed

NI's largest health unions have agreed a way forward with the Department of Health over pay parity.

Unison, Unite and the Royal College of Nursing had staged industrial action for several months in protest over pay and staffing.

However, the offer has not been accepted by health union, Nipsa, which is continuing industrial action.

Strike action was suspended in January following successful talks with the Department of Health.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said its members had spoken clearly in accepting the government's offer

Health Minister Robin Swann welcomed the news. He said: "This was made possible through important pay and staffing commitments which I was able to make with executive-wide backing. I am grateful to my colleagues around the executive table for this vital support.

"As I have repeatedly stated our health service will need sustained investment year on year for the sake of patients and staff."

The strike action centred around staffing levels and pay, which has not risen in line with healthcare workers in Scotland, England and Wales.

Pat Cullen, from the RCN, said: "It was unprecedented, not just in Northern Ireland, but for RCN members anywhere to go on strike.

"While RCN members have spoken clearly in accepting this offer, we are also clear we need to see all of the measures that have been agreed by Health Minister Robin Swann implemented in full."

The Northern Ireland Executive commitments on health parity and staffing investment is expected to cost £170m in 2020/21.

The £170m is part of the £661m extra that Mr Swann has said he needs for the forthcoming year in order to maintain existing services and meet all New Decade, New Approach commitments on health and social care.

Image source, Pacemaker

Karen Murray of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said it had "negotiated hard for pay parity with our colleagues in England and we got it".

"Our members have now voted to accept it. This is a significant victory for midwives, maternity support workers and their colleagues," she added.

The union, Unison, also voted to accept the proposals.

Its regional secretary, Patricia McKeown, said Monday was the "culmination of an incredible campaign".

"We will continue to work intensively with the Department of Health to implement the agreement both in relation to pay and to deliver all aspects of the proposals on safe staffing without delay," she added.

During the strike action, thousands of appointments and procedures were postponed as staff took to the picket lines.