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Northern Irish RCN asks permission for strike ballot

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The Royal College of Nursing in Northern Ireland has taken an official step towards balloting its members on possible industrial action over the lack of any pay award in the country.

For the first time, members of the RCN Northern Ireland Board have voted to ask the RCN Council, the organisation’s UK governing body, for authorisation to ballot over industrial action.

In April, members of the Royal College of Midwives in Northern Ireland held a four-hour strike over pay – for the first time in their history.

”Nurses are seeing their standard of living fall, with no sign of light at the end of the tunnel”

Janice Smyth

It was sparked by the rejection by ministers of the NHS Pay Review Body’s recommendation of a 1% pay rise in 2014-15 and no announcement about pay for the current financial year.

RCN Northern Ireland director Janice Smyth said nurses were “angry” it was now more than half-way through 2015-16 and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety had not indicated whether or not it will make a pay award for nurses.

It contrasts with the rest of the UK, where all Scottish nurses were offered the 1% recommended by the NHS Pay Review Body, as were the majority of nurses in Wales after negotiations brought about a revised deal.

In March, unions in England agreed a 1% pay rise for 2015-16 for all staff up to pay point 42 – the second point on band 8c – following two short strikes during the preceding autumn.

Janice Smyth

Janice Smyth

Janice Smyth

Ms Smyth said: “Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK in which no offer has been made to nursing staff, while pay awards of 1% have been made to other public servants.

“Nurses are seeing their standard of living fall, with no sign of light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “A staff nurse is already 20% worse off in real terms than in 2010.

Ms Smyth added that nurses felt “devalued, demoralised and disgusted” at the rejection of the pay review body’s 1% recommendation.

“The RCN Northern Ireland board believes that action needs to be taken immediately to resolve this unacceptable situation,” she said.

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