Belfast Telegraph

Union urges ‘fair’ pay increase for Northern Ireland health workers

Westminster debated the Northern Ireland Budget Bill setting funding for public services.

Money should be set aside in the Northern Ireland budget to deliver a fair pay increase to health workers, a union said (Dominic Lipinski/PA).
Money should be set aside in the Northern Ireland budget to deliver a fair pay increase to health workers, a union said (Dominic Lipinski/PA).

By Michael McHugh, PA

Money should be set aside in the Northern Ireland budget to deliver a fair pay increase to health workers, a union has said.

On Wednesday Westminster debated the Northern Ireland Budget Bill setting funding for public services.

Unison members in health and social services are being balloted for industrial action short of strike due to what they say is a growing pay deficit between workers in Northern Ireland and other parts of the NHS.

Unison head of bargaining and representation Anne Speed said: “For the last eight months, we have been told by the Department of Health and the employers that they need resources from Westminster to pay workers what they are owed here.

“Westminster is today debating a Budget Bill, but we are asking where the budget is to make sure health service workers are not left behind.”

She said the workforce the public needs to deliver care cannot be recruited and retained in the absence of fair pay.

“Our health service cannot continue to struggle on with unsafe staffing levels, crisis waiting lists and workers who are demoralised and undervalued.

“This budget needs to be revised to ring-fence money to fund the pay award that the workers deserve and that our services need.

“With a general election looming, we expect our local MPs will strongly make the case for pay justice for health workers in Northern Ireland.”

Around two-thirds of Unison’s 40,000 members in Northern Ireland work in the health and social services system.

It is understood Northern Ireland pay rates were introduced some years ago under devolution.

The Health Department does not have authority to overturn ministerial decisions on localised pay rates or to cut services to fund the pay deal being sought.

The department’s Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly has disclosed the “intense” budgetary challenges facing the health service.

PA

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