April 13, 2024

Health staff and civil servants offered 5% rise

Healthcare workers and civil servants in Northern Ireland have been offered a 5% pay increase.

They are the latest public sector pay offers to flow from Stormont’s financial package.

The proposed settlement for healthcare workers would see the restoration of pay parity with England.

The healthcare offer includes a one-off payment of £1,505, while civil servants would receive a payment of £1,500.

Both offers follow meetings with trade unions last week.

Image caption,

Healthcare workers were among those who took part in a mass strike on 18 January over pay

The lowest paid civil servants have been offered a 10% increase to bring them up to the level of ‘real living wage’.

Trade unions will now consult with their members on whether to accept the offer.

Nipsa General Secretary Carmel Gates said she believed members would welcome the offer and it “begins to set right the wrongs our members endured because of sustained and historic low pay”.

‘Properly rewarded’

Unison, which represents thousands of health workers, said months of industrial action had “finally yielded a result”.

Health Minister Robin Swann welcomed his department’s offer as “a positive step” towards reaching a pay settlement.

“I commend the constructive negotiations that have taken place with trade unions,” he said.

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

He said pay settlements for 2023/24 were “long overdue, having been delayed by political and budgetary instability”, adding the health pay offer would be backdated to April 2023.

Image caption,

Health Minister Robin Swann said staff are the “backbone of health and social care services”

Speaking to BBC News NI’s Good Morning Ulster, Patrick Mulholland from NIPSA said that the move was a “considerable step forward”.

“We want to see strike action come to an end, but we are preparing for further strike action if it is necessary,” he added.

Mr Mulholland said the pay deal is significant in itself, but in the wider context of public sector pay “it is the first rung in the ladder”.

Rita Devlin from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said that she feels “frustrated and disappointed with the lump sum, as it does not give our nurses parity with nurses in England”.

“My view is that we wanted parity with England, and the pay offer does not provide that,” she added.

‘End the pay dispute’

Anne Speed from Unison said there was still more negotiation to be done as “we are still third on the league table of pay”.

“We always have the leverage of taking industrial action, if negotiations don’t go our way.”

The RCN said it would be consulting members on the proposed pay settlement “shortly”.

Unite said it was “encouraging members to vote yes to accept this pay offer and end the pay dispute”.

“This offer ensures pay parity with NHS workers in England and Wales and will address safe staffing,” Brenda Stevenson from the union said.

Image caption,

Sinn Féin’s Caoimhe Archibald said the current offer does not provide a “sustainable solution” to public sector pay demands

The result of the ballot would see junior doctors taking part in a 24-hour walkout from 6 to 7 March.

Reflecting on the civil service pay offer, Dr Archibald said: “Civil servants, like other public servants, have been waiting some time for their 2023 pay award against the context of a cost-of-living crisis and pressures on their own household budgets.

“I hope staff will look favourably on the offer and that unions’ consultation with their members will proceed as swiftly as possible so we can get pay to staff as soon as practicable.”

Transport strike suspended

Meanwhile, the Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd has welcomed the suspension of the transport strike which was due to begin on Tuesday 27 February and would have seen all bus, rail and glider services cancelled.

The 72-hour strike by transport workers from Unite, GMB and Siptu unions was struck off after Translink offered an improved pay offer.

On Monday, Davy Thompson from Unite said: “I don’t think its good enough in terms of the percentage but that’s the deal we have on the table.

“This is bite-sized chunks, we are going to a ballot we have suspended our action to allow that to happen, so let’s see what the next stages are off the back of that,” he added.

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