Health service pay rise: Robin Swann to meet unions next week

Health Minister Robin Swann is due to meet trade unions on Monday amid concern about where the money to pay for a proposed pay increase is going to come from.

By Niall Deeney
Thursday, 12th August 2021, 5:13 pm
Health staff on strike at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast in 2019 over staffing levels and pay
Health staff on strike at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast in 2019 over staffing levels and pay

The largest trade union in the Northern Ireland health service, Unison, has said it is “immediately concerned” about the funding for a pay increase after the minister indicated Westminster isn’t prepared to pay up.

Unison regional secretary Patricia McKeown urged the Executive to “step up” ahead of Monday’s meeting with Mr Swann.

Two weeks ago, Wales and England offered a 3% pay increase to all health workers, while Scotland had already offered a 4% uplift.

Mr Swann is believed to be likely to offer 3% to staff here, and has written to trade unions to say he has accepted the recommendations of a pay review body.

But the minister also said in his letter that the extra cash required to fund the increase won’t be forthcoming from the Treasury.

Ms McKeown said: “Unison members working across health and social care have sacrificed so much over the last 18 months and are continuing to work under extreme pressure in responding to Covid-19 and the wider needs of the public.

“They are continuing to work within services that are under-staffed and under-resourced. If we want to show them they are truly valued, and if we want to recruit and retain the staff the health service desperately needs, pay must be a priority.

“Unison has been seeking a £2,000 rise, which we think is fair and reasonable. The 3% uplift in pay recommended by the Pay Review Body falls short of this but we are immediately concerned that the health minister has indicated that no funding will be forthcoming from the Treasury to fund a pay award in Northern Ireland.”

She added: “Now is the time for the entire Executive to step up and secure the funding needed for a decent pay rise. Unison will be leading a meeting of trade unions with the minister this Monday to discuss the way forward on pay.”

The Royal College of Nursing, meanwhile, is to consult its members in England and Wales on the 3% offer.

The union’s general secretary Pat Cullen said: “With the NHS facing massive waiting lists and recovery pressures, investing in the workforce is the only way to retain the experienced nursing staff health services cannot afford to lose with such a challenge ahead.”