Nurses from England, Wales and Scotland are standing up in “solidarity” with their colleagues in Northern Ireland as tensions rise over pay.
It comes after it emerged that some nurses in the country were actually worse off despite getting a pay rise, because they had been bumped up to the next pension contribution bracket.
“In these difficult times we stand beside you”
A pay deal for this financial year was agreed by the Department of Health (DOH) at the end of last year and was implemented last month, backdated to April 2018.
The deal gave a 3% or more pay uplift to 70% of healthcare staff on the Agenda for Change scheme.
However, a DOH spokeswoman confirmed that a “small minority of staff” were pushed into a higher tier of the pension scheme as a result of the deal and, therefore, owed more in contribution arrears than they received from the backdated pay increase.
She said “mitigation arrangements” had been made available for any staff in this situation, including the opportunity to have the debt covered by wage deductions over a period of up to 12 months.
“There was significant communication directly with staff and with trade unions on this issue,” the spokeswoman added.
Members of the Royal College of Nursing from the other three countries in the UK have this week sent to a letter of support to nurses in Northern Ireland.
The letter was written by London nurses Danielle Tiplady and Dan Langley.
“We, as members of the Royal College of Nursing, from England, Wales and Scotland express our solidarity to you in your fight for fair pay and safer working conditions,” it says.
“It is heartbreaking to read how tough a time they are having”
The letter labels the pay deal imposed by the DOH as “both punishing and unjust and leaves many of you destitute, demoralised and devalued”.
It ends: “In these difficult times we stand beside you. We will be there whatever action you decide to take as you fight this contemptible deal; to better not only your lives but the lives of future nurses.”
Ms Tiplady, a leading nurse activist who was at the forefront of England’s Scrap the Cap campaign, told Nursing Times it was “heartbreaking” to read about the situation facing Northern Irish nurses and that she wanted to show them that they were “not alone”.
“Nurses in Northern Ireland are becoming increasingly angry and distressed at their pay and working conditions,” she added.
“The frustration is palpable, members have been sharing the shocking reality of how it is for them in Northern Ireland,” she said.
“It is heartbreaking to read how tough a time they are having which is why myself and fellow London member Dan Langley wrote a letter in solidarity with our NI colleagues to show them that they are not alone and that their RCN family are there to support them whatever action they decide to take in their fight for fair pay,” Ms Tiplady said.
The one-year pay deal was not supported by the RCN, which demanded a mimimum 3% pay rise for all Agenda for Change nurses.
It followed a blow-up over the way the college handled pay negotiations for nurses in England last summer.