Northern Ireland

Health trusts call for workers to be "properly rewarded" but no mention of figures

Former Health Minister Robin Swann
Former Health Minister Robin Swann

Northern Ireland’s health trusts want to see their workers “properly rewarded” but fell short of calling for an increase beyond what has already been offered.

The Department of Health finally announced last week health service workers here, including nurses, will get an uplift of £1,400 for the year starting April 2022.

This has been rejected by all unions, which are calling for an increase of £2,000. Separately, nurses are asking for five per cent above the retail price index inflation, currently around 14 per cent.

In a joint statement, the chief executives of the five trusts said the region is facing a "prolonged period of industrial action".

"Inevitably there will be an impact on services, However, we have contingency plans in place and are working closely with the trade unions to protect our critical services and to mitigate disruption, as far as possible,” the chief executives said.

Lauding the “incredible work” of staff, the trusts said: “We obviously want to see all staff properly rewarded for their work.”

“They have been impacted heavily by cost of living increases and escalating pressures on Health and Social Care services. We must also never forget what they did for us all during the pandemic,” the statement continued.

Service, workforce and pay pressures must be addressed by a long-term funding settlement, they added.

“We have been struggling with a system where funding has been made available on a yearly basis, which makes it impossible to plan for the long term.

“Demand is increasing and will continue to do so, meaning that the current system is simply unsustainable.”

Former Health Minister Robin Swann is urging the UK Government to engage with the unions.

"Whilst last week's local decision on implementing the pay review body recommendation was welcome, it came far too late," Mr Swann said.

"Had an Executive been in place the decision could have been made in the summer and therefore much of the subsequent frustration could have been avoided."

He added: "I recognise that the latest increase still falls short of what many local staff are seeking. So I would urge the UK government to engage with the unions and I hope that the government recognises that in coming to any arrangement they also seek to protect other key frontline services.

"It saddens me greatly that they (the unions) find themselves on the picket line and without any new Minister to engage with."

Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O'Neill joined workers at a picket line at the Tyrone Hospital in Dungannon, Co Tyrone.

"These workers have had to come out in really bad weather conditions to campaign and to fight their corner for fair pay and conditions and safe staffing levels, which are crucially important," Ms O'Neill said.