Nurses gearing up for strike action over pay

NURSES may take industrial action in the  coming weeks over staffing levels and pay.
There are currently around 3,000 vacancies across the North, including hundreds in the Western Trust area, with shortages placing extra pressures on staff to patient ratio. 
There are fears that strike action could have a devastating effect on the local health service which is already preparing for added winter pressures.
“Recruitment and retention problems are causing a massive strain on wards,” said an RCN Union representative. 
“There are not enough beds, and healthcare staff are constantly under pressure with the responsibility of maybe one nurse to eight patients, which is extremely unsafe.”
The Royal College of Nursing claim pay has fallen by around 15% in the last eight years, creating a significant pay gap between Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK. 
Trained nurses here start on a salary of £22,795 for band 5 novices while more experienced nurses at grade 7 can expect to earn up to £40,000.
Nurses pay from the 1st of April 2019 in others parts of the UK increased, as the second year uplift of a three-year pay deal took effect.  
However, no award has been agreed yet in the North for 2019/20, which has resulted in existing pay gaps growing even further. 
“Unfair pay gaps makes it difficult to recruit and retain staff who are expected to do the same hours and work as other places in the UK, yet be paid less” explained a Fermanagh nurse based in SWAH. 
“We are losing qualified and talented local nurses to other places in the UK because the pay is better” she warned. 
A Department of Health spokesman has said they remain focused on finding a way forward, and are currently finalising a formal payment offer for 2019/20. 
“Despite claims to the contrary, there is no separate or untapped source of funding that we can access, nor can money simply be found in the budget” said a spokesperson. 
The union now have  agreed to strike on 18 December. 

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