Northern Ireland news

Trade unions warn of possible health service strike over pay

Health workers could strike in the new year over pay

HEALTH workers could strike in the new year over a pay row.

Leading trade unions said last night pay negotiations with the Department of Health, which have been running since early June, had reached deadlock.

In a joint statement, officials from Unite, Unison, Nipsa and the Royal College of Nursing said they will consult their members over whether a formal ballot on strike action should be held.

The unions want a three per cent pay rise as an interim payment for staff this year.

"The lead negotiators have made it clear that they have reached an impasse and have no alternative but to canvas the views of their members regarding future potential industrial action," the unions' statement read.

"We are disappointed at the department's present failure to reach a resolution for health workers here in Northern Ireland."

However, the department said the unions' statement was "hugely disappointing".

A spokeswoman acknowledged staff's frustrations amid the political impasse at Stormont but said the department "can't simply spend money we don't have on issues that require authority that hasn't yet been granted to us".

"That is a fundamental principle of managing public money, and one we rightly take very seriously," she said.

"We have consistently made this point very clear to the trade unions."

The department said work on obtaining a pay rise for staff is ongoing in two areas.

"Firstly, the Department of Finance has signalled that it is considering how it might introduce a Northern Ireland pay policy, now that the new legislation on decision-making is in place," she said.

"Secondly, we are making progress with our work to secure the funding required for a 2018/19 pay deal.

"We are optimistic of a positive outcome to these two strands of work, which we hope to conclude in the very near future."

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