Nurses in Northern Ireland are to be balloted by the RCN over taking industrial action to protest understaffing and low pay.
There are nearly 3000 unfilled nursing positions in Northern Ireland and a similar level is estimated in nursing homes. Pay for nursing staff in Northern Ireland has fallen by 15% over the last eight years, and is consistently lower than pay in the rest of the UK.
‘Personally, they have suffered a decade of great unfairness and professionally they have seen the grave consequences for their patients,’ said Dame Donna Kinnair, RCN Chief Executive. ‘Their service has been undervalued and this continues as pay awards fall further behind other countries of the UK. It cannot be repeated enough that starving a country of enough nurses is a major risk to patient safety which the nurses of Northern Ireland will not stand by and let happen to their much-loved health service. Many months of negotiations failed to achieve a breakthrough and we take these measures to show the strength of feeling in the public and the nursing workforce. Their voices will not be ignored’.
The RCN is issuing a ballot to its members, asking them to vote on possible industrial action to tackle this crisis. Nurses have until the 6th of November to return these ballot papers.
‘Over the next four weeks we are asking nursing staff across Northern Ireland if they are willing to take industrial action, including strike action, over the unacceptable conditions that we currently face in health care in Northern Ireland,’ said Pat Cullen, director of the RCN Northern Ireland. ‘Our members have very clearly told us that enough is enough. No nurse wants to take industrial action or strike action but low staffing levels pose unacceptable risks to patients, nursing staff, and the people of Northern Ireland. We have simply been left with no choice’.
There is also a petition online aimed at supporting nursing staff by demanding safe staffing and pay equality.