NI nurses vote to strike for first time in 103 years

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Nurses in Northern Ireland have voted to take strike action.

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in Northern Ireland have voted for industrial action for the first time in the organisation's 103-year history.

It's first time in 103 years nurses have voted in favour of strike action in Northern Ireland.

It's first time in 103 years nurses have voted in favour of strike action in Northern Ireland.

The action comes amid a dispute with management over pay and staffing levels.

RCN chief executive and general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: "This is a day we had hoped not to reach and the first time RCN members have voted to strike in our 103-year history.

"We did not take the decision to ballot members lightly. But the fact that nurses in Northern Ireland have now voted so overwhelmingly for industrial action, including strike action, shows how clearly they can see the risk to patient safety from staff shortages.

"In addition, the fact that the real value of nurses' pay in Northern Ireland has fallen by around 15% in the last eight years is a fundamental unfairness that must be urgently addressed.

"Patients hugely value the care nursing staff provide, but it's clear that health service leaders in Northern Ireland do not."

In response to the RCN ballot result, a spokesman for Stormont's Department of Health said: "The department will be holding further detailed discussions with the RCN and other trade unions on Friday. Dialogue remains the only way forward.

"With an NI public sector pay policy now in place for 2019/2020, we plan to table a formal pay offer as soon as possible.

"The budgetary pressures across health and social care are clear for all to see. Despite claims to the contrary, there is no separate or untapped source of funding for pay increases. It all comes out of the one health budget. Every pound spent on one priority area is a pound not available for another.

"We fully accept that staff in health and social care feel deeply frustrated. However, trade unions are making demands they know the department cannot meet. Industrial action this winter can only exacerbate an already very difficult situation."