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Nurses to begin strike action next month

Industrial action approved starting on 3 December

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Nurses in Northern Ireland will begin taking industrial action on 3 December, it was confirmed yesterday, to protest over their pay and work conditions.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Council yesterday approved several dates for industrial action and strike action in Northern Ireland.

RCN members working in Health and Social Care [HSC] services in Northern Ireland voted overwhelmingly to take industrial action, including strike action last weekend, primarily over what they described as the nurse staffing and pay “crisis”.

As many as 96% of those members who returned their ballot papers voted to take industrial action and 92% voted to take strike action.

Now that RCN Council has approved the action, the first day of industrial action will be on 3 December. Industrial action, short of strike action, will include declining to do any task that is not patient-specific.

Examples of such actions include:

  • working no bank, overtime or agency shifts on days of industrial action
  • not working unpaid hours
  • not completing paper work other than individual patient records
  • not preparing or cleaning empty beds when a patient is discharged
  • not accompanying patients to tests and investigations unless there is an identified clinical requirement
  • not answering telephones at ward level
  • no administrative tasks
  • not collecting prescriptions or pharmacy in the community
  • not collecting or delivering blood samples in the community.

Two further dates of industrial action, short of strike action, are set to take place on 10 and 11 December 2019, followed by the first day of strike action on 18 December.

Pat Cullen, director of the RCN in Northern Ireland said: “Nurses are very disappointed that there has been no further meaningful engagement with the Department of Health regarding the safe staffing and pay crisis that we are facing in Northern Ireland.

“RCN Council has now approved a schedule of industrial action and strike action. Regrettably this will begin before the Christmas period.

“The first two weeks of action will be industrial action followed by our first day of strike on 18 December. We are now putting plans in place to determine how this will be managed and delivered.

“While no nurse wants to take this action, unfortunately we have been left with no choice and we are now carrying out the instructions that our members have clearly voted for.”

The Department of Health in the province said it remained focussed on finding a way forward.

A spokesperson said: “In this context, we are currently finalising a formal pay offer for 2019-20.

“This will be the best offer possible within the budget available, but the reality is that our ability to address pay issues is inevitably constrained at a time of intense budgetary pressures for health and social care services.

“These budgetary pressures are clear for all to see, and we have been highlighting these for some considerable time.

“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. As with any other item of expenditure, pay costs come out of the one health budget, which is currently overcommitted.”

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