Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland nurses to strike week before Christmas

Northern Ireland's nurses will strike on December 18.
Northern Ireland's nurses will strike on December 18.
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

Northern Ireland's nurses are to strike the week before Christmas, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has announced.

The industrial action is part of a series of dates announced over a dispute with management on pay and conditions.

Nurses will take part in 24-hour industrial action short of strike on December 3 and 48-hour industrial action on December 10 and 11.

They have also agreed 12-hour strike action on Wednesday December 18.

This will include nurses refusing to work bank or overtime shifts, not working unpaid hours, not completing paper other than patient records, refusing to answer telephones and not collecting prescriptions or pharmacy in the community.

It comes after 96% of members balloted voted in favour of industrial action, with 92% backing strike action. The turnout was 43.3%.

The decision was ratified by the RCN Council on November 12.

It is the first time in the 103-year history of the organisation that nurses have voted in favour of strike action over patient safety and an increase in pay for staff.

The organisation is considering further strike action in January, February and March of next year if an agreement cannot be reached with the Department of Health.

The department has said that it is unable to meet nurses demands to be paid the same as their counterparts in the rest of the UK, but that they remain committed to finding a solution.

Pat Cullen is the director of the Royal College of Nursing NI
Pat Cullen is the director of the Royal College of Nursing NI

Director of the RCN in Northern Ireland Pat Cullen said that nurses were "very disappointed" that there had been "no further meaningful engagement" from the department regarding the "safe staffing and pay crisis that we are facing in Northern Ireland".

“RCN Council has now approved a schedule of industrial action and strike action. Regrettably this will begin before the Christmas period," Mrs Cullen said.

"The first two weeks of action will be industrial action followed by our first day of strike on 18 December. We are now putting plans in place to determine how this will be managed and delivered.

“While no nurse wants to take this action, unfortunately we have been left with no choice and we are now carrying out the instructions that our members have clearly voted for. We will have further details on the impact this will have upon services closer to the time.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said that they are currently finalising a formal pay offer for 2019/20 and had nothing further to add to a previous statement.

"This will be the best offer possible within the budget available, but the reality is that our ability to address pay issues is inevitably constrained at a time of intense budgetary pressures for health and social care services," the previous statement read.

"These budgetary pressures are clear for all to see, and we have been highlighting these for some considerable time."

On Monday Unison members in health and social care voted in favour of strike action. The union is Northern Ireland's largest of health workers and represents around 25,000 staff including nurses, social care and support staff.

Of the 23% of Unison members who took part in the ballot, 92% voted in favour of striking.

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