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Northern Ireland nurses finally receive 2023-24 pay offer

A pay offer for Health and Social Care (HSC) staff in Northern Ireland has been put forward, following negotiations between unions and the government there.

For 2023-24, the government has offered staff on Agenda for Change contracts a 5% pay rise, as well as an additional one-off payment of £1,505. These payments will be backdated to April 2023.

“Hard-working nursing staff have been waiting a very long time for the pay situation to be resolved here”

Rita Devlin

In addition, all band 1 staff and staff on the lowest pay point of band 2 will have their pay increased to match the highest pay point of band 2.

The Department of Health in Northern Ireland said this deal would see the restoration of pay parity with England.

Health unions representing nurses and other HSC staff are now set to ballot their members on the offer.

Nurses and other HSC staff have finally received a 2023-24 pay offer following the restoration of power-sharing in the Northern Ireland assembly and executive earlier this month.

It came after a two-year boycott by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which walked out of the executive in defiance of post-Brexit trade agreements.

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In response, nurses and other staff held a series of strikes in the country, demanding a pay offer that would return pay parity with colleagues in England.

Last month, some 170,000 public sector workers belonging to more than 15 trade unions took industrial action over the lack of a pay award.

Now, following two weeks of negotiations with trade unions, the Department of Health in Northern Ireland has tabled an offer.

Northern Ireland’s health minister, Robin Swann, said: “I said on taking office that my first priority was to get pay settlements over the line for staff.

“This is a positive step in that direction and I commend the constructive negotiations that have taken place with trade unions representing Agenda for Change staff.”

Mr Swann noted that trade unions across the country would ballot their members, and said he wanted them “to be given the time and space for this to happen”.

He added: “Staff are the backbone of health and social care services and deserve to be properly rewarded for their work.

“Staff pay settlements for 2023-24 are long overdue, having been delayed by political and budgetary instability.”

Responding to the announcement, the Royal College of Nursing Northern Ireland director, Rita Devlin, said: “While we acknowledge the 5% consolidated pay uplift for HSC staff, we are extremely disappointed that the non-consolidated element of the pay award falls short of what our colleagues in England received.”

It comes as nurses and other NHS staff in England were given a one-off bonus for 2022-23 of between £1,655 for band 1 to £3,789 for the top of band 9.

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Ms Devlin said: “Hard-working nursing staff have been waiting a very long time for the pay situation to be resolved here, showing patience and resilience despite worsening conditions in the health service.

“While we recognise that there has been progress on this issue, many will be disheartened at not receiving the same amount as nursing staff across England.

“For some, this will leave them hundreds of pounds out of pocket.”

Ms Devlin also warned that, in the long term, the pay award did “little to restore the significant reduction in pay nurses have suffered over a decade”.

“We will be launching a consultation on this proposed pay settlement with our members shortly and it will be up to each member to look closely at what the pay offer means for them and to decide how to vote,” she added.

Meanwhile, Unison welcomed the news that a pay offer had been put forward.

In a statement, the union said: “Six days of strike action and 15 months of working to rule by health workers have finally yielded a result.

“The action of minister Swann to react swiftly to the crisis and mandate pay negotiations is recognised.”

However, Unison noted that restoration of pay parity was only with England and that there was variation in healthcare workers’ pay across the UK.

It said: “That gap should be closed and will be a key trade union goal in the 2024-25 pay round.”

Separately, Unite has recommended that its members accept the pay offer.

Unite regional officer Brenda Stevenson said. “We are encouraging members to vote ‘yes’ to accept this pay offer and end the pay dispute.

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“This offer ensures pay parity with NHS workers in England and Wales and will address safe staffing.”

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