Pay talks for health workers end without agreement

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by Q Radio News

Pay talks between the Department of Health and Trade unions have ended without agreement. 

The Department of Health issued a statement saying it's "deeply disappointed" and that a move towards industrial action could be "damaging".

Meanwhile, Trade Unions issued a statement expressing "continuing disappointment at the failure to recommence meaningful talks".

Nurses in Northern Ireland are due to strike for the first time ever next month over staffing levels and the ongoing pay dispute. 

Meanwhile, thousands of UNISON members that are health and social care workers plan to take industrial action next week. 

The Department of Health has published the details of the formal pay offer they made earlier this week. 

https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/publications/agenda-change-letter.

The offer includes: 

  • All pay increases would be backdated to April 2019 
     
  • Eligible staff would also get pay progression increases to move them towards the top of their respective pay bands
     
  • Pay progression adds in the region of 1% to the pay bill – on the top of any annual pay increase.

The Department has also proposed an independently facilitated process to agree on a detailed and fully costed programme of proposed measures to resolve pay issues and workforce pressures within five years, for consideration by incoming Ministers.

However, the unions said they rejected this last week and that "there was nothing new from the Department and Employers on this issue."

"What has been proposed would see the gap in pay widening between our staff and colleagues in the rest of the UK.

"This will not only impact now on pay levels but will have a detrimental impact on future pay and pensions.

"The Trade Unions remain committed to working to address the shortages across staff in the service."

Richard Pengelly, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health, said: “We have worked hard with Trade Unions to make progress in very difficult circumstances.

“In addition to the pay offer, the Department has also proposed an independently facilitated process with unions to develop long term and sustainable solutions on pay and workforce issues.

"This proposal was in line with what has been requested publicly by at least one Trade Union.

"The Department’s suggested way forward was explained at length in the meeting with Trade Unions today, and it is regrettable that this has been rejected.

"Officials remain very willing to discuss and indeed take part in an independently facilitated process which we consider is a much safer and more constructive approach to breaking what has become an impasse.

“While I would have preferred to be in a position to make a higher pay offer, this is the best we can afford given the budgetary constraints and limited authority in the absence of a Minister.

"Of course, a returning Minister would be able to revisit this issue, with the greater ability to address the affordability constraint."

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