Royal College of Nursing (RCN) members working across Northern Ireland have entered the second day of 48 hours of industrial action as they push for pay equality with nursing staff in the rest of the UK and for improvement in staffing levels.
A spokesman for the RCN said as part of the action, which started yesterday (December 10), the nurses are working strictly to their contracts of employment, which means starting and finishing on time, taking breaks, and refusing to perform non-nursing duties.
The Belfast Health Trust said all hospital surgical procedures, inpatients and day cases and all outpatient appointments will proceed as normal on Today (December 11), except for outpatient appointments in the School of Dentistry.
The Northern Trust said some routine appointments at the Causeway Hospital will be affected, while some services in the Western Trust will also be affected.
The action has gone ahead after a new pay offer, which was tabled by the Department of Health Northern Ireland last week, was rejected as union bosses said it ‘fell significantly short of members’ requirements’. Director of the RCN in Northern Ireland Pat Cullen said:
‘Nurses have made it clear that they expect pay parity with England and Wales, as well as concrete measures to address the nurse staffing crisis in Northern Ireland. These expectations are the basis of our industrial action.
‘Despite the intervention of the secretary of state for Northern Ireland, with whom the RCN met, it’s clear that Department of Health officials are still incapable of grasping either the severity of the crisis in our health service or the determination of nursing staff to secure safe staffing and pay equality.
‘Nurses are no longer prepared to listen to the same excuses from the Department of Health about budgets and/or not having the ministerial authority to deliver an acceptable pay award even if the money were available.
‘Our health service is collapsing as we speak. It is simply not good enough for civil servants to continue to play with words and fail to take effective action to resolve this crisis. The RCN believes the gap between what the department is offering and what nurses expect in terms of pay parity can be achieved.
‘The RCN has consistently stressed its willingness to continue discussions with the Department of Health. The department must, however, be prepared to formulate proposals that actually address the issues nurses have highlighted.’
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