Nurses from Northern Ireland who claim they have been “left behind” colleagues in other UK nations when it comes to pay have taken their protest to Whitehall.
A delegation of health and social care workers from the union Unison was due to gather in Westminster today to call for an end to the “NHS pay deficit” in the region.
“We are not prepared to be left behind”
The group – who will be joined by Unison members from England, Scotland and Wales – was set to gather outside the Treasury in Whitehall before moving on to Parliament.
The row over pay in Northern Ireland comes amid the ongoing political stalemate in the country after the devolved government collapsed in January 2017.
Nurses and others are angry because they have not seen the benefits of a three-year pay deal that was supposed to cover all parts of the UK.
Under the current political circumstances the budget for Northern Ireland is agreed annually.
In February, a pay uplift was imposed by the Department of Health for nurses on the Agenda for Change scheme for 2018/19 without agreement with trade unions.
Maura McKenna, co-chair of the Unison Northern Ireland health and social services group, said this was not acceptable.
“We previously only had a one-year settlement imposed on us without agreement, unlike other parts of the NHS which secured a three-year deal. We are not prepared to be left behind,” she said.
Fellow co-chair Conor McCarthy said health and social care professionals wanted to know what was going on and called on the UK government to take action.
“The Department of Health in Northern Ireland says it does not have the money to pay us. The UK government is holding on to power because of a ‘supply and confidence’ deal with the DUP, which included an additional £1bn for Northern Ireland,” he said.
“Resources are urgently needed to end the pay deficit”
“The DUP along with all other parties in Northern Ireland is supporting our claim. We are here to say to the UK Treasury ‘Where’s our money?’’’
He also highlighted the need to increase funding for social care in Northern Ireland where – unlike the rest of the UK - care is funded and delivered through an integrated health service.
Unison’s Northern Ireland head of bargaining and representation Anne Speed said protestors were keen to make their case to politicians and civil servants in Westminster and back home.
“We are delivering our message not only to the Treasury but also to Northern Ireland MPs who sit in Westminster and members of the Northern Ireland Assembly who are discussing the restoration of devolution, and funding for a new programme for government,” she said.
“Workers will not accept this growing inequality. Resources are urgently needed to end the pay deficit,” she added.
Data analysis by the Royal College of Nursing previously showed that a nurse on the lowest salary in band 5 earns £22,795 in Northern Ireland compared to £24,214 in England and Wales, and £24,670 in Scotland.