Belfast Telegraph

NI health crisis: Unions reject new pay offer from Department of Health

  • Department of Health says it has made a 'sizeable new offer'
  • Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly says 'this is the furthest I am able to go'
  • Union says offer is 'insufficient'
  • The offer involved a 3.1% increase in the overall pay bill
Health service staff take part in industrial action outside the Ulster Hospital
Health service staff take part in industrial action outside the Ulster Hospital
NHS workers from a picket line at the Belfast City Hospital in Belfast as part of continuing strike action in the health service. Picture by Philip Magowan /PressEye
Trade unions have described a new pay offer from the Department of Health as “insufficient”. (Rebecca Black/PA)
Mark Edwards

By Mark Edwards

A new pay offer put forward by the Department of Health has been rejected by health unions.

Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith had previously said he hoped the new offer would be carefully considered by unions, which had planned further strike action for later this month.

The unions met with Department of Health on Thursday and said they expected it to be a "negotiating meeting".

However, Ann Speed, from Unison, said on Thursday evening that the offer fell short of what had been asked for and that industrial action will continue.

Ms Speed said: "The department has presented a new position, trade unions have jointly agreed this remains insufficient and falls short of our members' requirements and mandate that they have given us.

"Industrial action continues and joint planned trade union action remains in place for 18 December."

Department of Health Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly said: "It is a matter of great regret that unions have taken this position, indicating that industrial action will now escalate. This will impact significantly on patient care in an already very challenging period for the health service.

“We have made a sizeable new offer. In the absence of Ministers, this is the furthest I am able to go. It is therefore the final offer for this year.

“Our proposals involve a projected 3.1% increase in the overall pay bill for Agenda for Change staff. This allows us to mirror the English NHS pay settlement for this year, as we did in 2018/19 when a 3% increase was awarded.

“This was always our intention. It had not been possible up to now within the budget we had at our disposal.

Health service staff take part in industrial action outside the Ulster Hospital
Health service staff take part in industrial action outside the Ulster Hospital

“We were informed by Department of Finance colleagues yesterday that an additional £28m is now available for this financial year. That has led to today’s increased offer.

“I accept it does not address everything trade unions wanted. That will require a Minister and longer term budgetary certainty. Neither does it resolve the financial and other challenges which the Department is facing.”

“While we cannot make a firm offer for next year in the absence of a budget, it is my clear intention to replicate the third year of the three year Agenda for Change pay settlement in 2020/21. We did that in 2018/19 and today’s offer does the same for this year.”

Pat Cullen, director of Royal College of Nursing NI.
Pat Cullen, director of Royal College of Nursing NI.

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