Health unions in Northern Ireland are unhappy with the UK government’s latest offer of a pay rise worth at least £1,400.
Across the UK, more than one million NHS staff, including nurses, paramedics and midwives, are set for an increase of at least £1,400 with lowest earners to receive up to 9.3%, while dentists and doctors will get a 4.5% pay rise, police 5% and teachers between 5 and 8.9%.
With inflation soaring at its highest level in decades, health unions say the announcement amounts to a real terms pay cut.
The chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, Pat Cullen from Northern Ireland, described the offer as a “grave misstep by ministers”.
Unison official Anne Speed, who was chief negotiator for trade unions during the Northern Ireland health service strike action in 2019 and early 2020, said the award would be “disappointing” for those on “middle bands” in particular.
The chair of the British Medical Association in Northern Ireland, Dr Tom Black, said the offer of 4.5% “does not make doctors feel valued”.
In normal circumstances, the recommended pay award would require approval by the Stormont health minister, while any additional spending by the UK government would be awarded to the Northern Ireland Assembly through the Barnett formula.
But in the absence of a functioning Executive, it is unclear how any pay award will be implemented.
Unison official Anne Speed, speaking to the News Letter ahead of a meeting with her counterparts in other parts of the UK, said: “We have to go and talk to the caretaker minister [Robin Swann]. Even with this recommendation, how are we going to get our hands on it? We have no Executive and we have a caretaker minister, who I imagine hasn’t got any of the money yet.
“What has happened in the past is that Barnett consequentials would add funding from across the water, which would have to be put on the table in front of the Executive, and then the pay award would be made.
“That’s what happens when we have a functioning Executive, but we don’t know what’s going to happen now.”
She added: “We are in a difficult political environment as trade unions.”
The Department of Health was last night approached for comment on the pay award, but no response had been received at the time of writing.
Dolores McCormick, associate director of the RCN in Northern Ireland, said: “Following the announcement by the UK government of a pay award, our members will now be waiting anxiously for a pay announcement in Northern Ireland.
“Nurses and other health care workers have a right to know as soon as possible where they stand and what pay award they will be receiving.”