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Northern Ireland nurses set to be balloted on strike action

Nurses have been locked in a dispute over pay and staffing numbers
Nurses have been locked in a dispute over pay and staffing numbers

Nurses in Northern Ireland are to be balloted on strike action, it has emerged.

The decision was made by members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), who voted unanimously for the ballot to go ahead amid a dispute over staffing numbers and pay, the BBC reports.

Nurses will be asked whether they want to take industrial action, including strike action.

The ballot will start on October 9 and last four weeks.

RCN's Northern Ireland director Pat Cullen said negotiations to secure better pay and more staff have to date failed.

"Whilst it is momentous, it is also a sad occasion to think that nurses in Northern Ireland have had to move to a ballot in order to get the best resources that they need to look after their patients," she told the BBC.

"When you have a 13% vacancy rate in your work force and thousands of nurses not available everyday for work... that speaks volumes.

"With regard to talks with the department over pay, which have been ongoing for years, there has not been a positive outcome."

According to a survey of RCN nurses, nearly half of nurses working in Northern Ireland reported working eight hours or more of additional and unpaid work each week.

Previously, Ms Cullen said staffing issues were being exacerbated by the disparity in pay between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK and Republic of Ireland, meaning nurses are choosing to work in countries where they can earn more.

The salary for newly qualified nurses in Northern Ireland stands at £22,795, while their counterparts in England and Wales earn £24,214 and this rises to £24,670 in Scotland.

Nurses in the Republic of Ireland have recently negotiated a new pay deal meaning their starting salary is €29,000, rising to €42,000.

The maximum a band five nurse in Northern Ireland can earn is £29,300, regardless of how long they have been working.

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