Commitment to nurses pay parity must be honoured - Chambers

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Commitment to nurses pay parity must be honoured - Chambers

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has sent a strongly worded letter to the Secretary of State and the five Northern Ireland party leaders regarding the failure to implement an Agenda for Change pay award for nursing staff for 2023-2024. The letter states that the RCN is coming under increasing pressure from their members in Northern Ireland to take appropriate action to address these issues. They say that their options that are being actively considered, “include a full resumption of strike action over the pay award."

The letter goes on to state “Our members patience has now been exhausted and we are no longer prepared to sit back while nursing staff in Northern Ireland are being deployed against their will in an apparently endless political charade.”

Responding to the letter on behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party, party health spokesperson Alan Chambers MLA stated,

“In January 2020 my party colleague, and then Health Minister, Robin Swann MLA brought forward a plan to provide pay parity for our health workers and this was subsequently unanimously agreed by the Stormont Executive.

“Our party position is that we believe that the established and agreed commitment regarding pay parity should be honoured. However, until there is a return of an Assembly and an Executive this is out of our hands. This situation can only be changed if the DUP decide on an immediate return to Stormont.

“On the heels of the Westminster financial deal that includes a budget figure to meet public service pay settlements, my party leader, Doug Beattie MC MLA, wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, calling on him to authorise his Secretary of State to proceed to fulfil pay parity in advance of further dithering by the DUP on a decision to return to Stormont.

“The RCN are correct to refer to ‘an apparently endless political charade’ but the finger of blame can only be pointed at the DUP for a situation that is causing every person in Northern Ireland to feel the effects of the punishing consequences of the current absence of responsible devolved government.

“If a return to Stormont is not imminent then the Secretary of State must legislate to honour pay parity for health workers as a matter of urgency. If reform of our health service is going to happen, and it must, staff morale has to be increased, trained staff retained in post and new recruits incentivised to seek a career in our HSC system.

“Continuing failure to honour the already agreed pay parity proposals will not encourage any of these vital aspirations.”