A pay deal for nurses in Northern Ireland has been put on the table following a threat of strike action.
The department of health has made a formal offer to trade unions ahead of a planned meeting next week.
“A pay settlement that recognises and rewards our hard-working staff has been an important priority”
The proposal has been worked out by applying this year’s NHS pay settlement in England to current wage rates in Northern Ireland.
The package for 2018-19 would give around 70% of staff on the Agenda to Change pay scheme a 3% or more uplift at a cost to the government of more than £60m.
Unions, including the Royal College of Nursing, are consulting members over whether they would be prepared to be balloted on industrial action over delays in a pay award for this financial year.
Health secretary Richard Pengelly said: “Our health and social care system depends on the dedication and expertise of staff, particularly during these times of unprecedented pressure on services.
“I am delighted to be able to reach this point. The department, alongside our colleagues in the department of finance, has worked hard to make this possible, and I am very grateful to staff across the sector, and our trade union colleagues, for their forbearance while we were doing so.”
The government is aiming for the extra cash to be in pay packets in the new year.
The deal, which would be backdated to 1 April 2018, would see staff at the top of most bands receive a 3% boost.
There will be an increase to starting salaries across all bands, including a 4% jump to £22,795 for newly qualified nurses.
The minimum rate of pay will be set at £16,943 – an increase of up to 15.5% for some of the lowest paid employees - equating to an hourly rate of £8.67.
Mr Pengelly added: “In common with many other parts of the public sector, health and social care services are facing intense budgetary pressure.
“Nevertheless, a pay settlement that recognises and rewards our hard-working staff has been an important priority, reflecting our determination to build a sustainable workforce.”
The department of health is also in the process of considering doctors’ and dentists’ pay awards for 2018/19.