Health union warns of pre-election wage unrest

Health unions are angered by the deal - and the way it was revealed
Health unions are angered by the deal - and the way it was revealed

A large-scale health union has suggested MLAs will face industrial unrest in the run up to the Assembly election, after reacting angrily to a pay deal.

Thousands of healthcare staff – including nurses, porters and radiographers – stand to benefit from the hike, which will amount to one per cent to those at the top of their pay scales, and was announced by DUP finance minister Simon Hamilton on Friday.

There are other arrangements for those not at the top of their pay bands.

However Anne Speed, Unison’s head of bargaining, said that the one per cent pay increase will be “non-consolidated” – meaning it will effectively be a one-off, and will not be added as standard to workers’ pay scales.

She said that staff in Scotland had won consolidated pay rises, and that English and Welsh NHS employees had also won better deals than Northern Irish workers.

She went on to brand the finance minister “disrespectful” – saying that the union had only learned of the planned pay offer when it was announced to the press.

She said: “Most definitely there’ll be a discussion over industrial action. Certainly going forward into the Assembly elections, pay will be an issue.”

Unite, the Royal College of Nurses and NIPSA also said they had been “shocked and disappointed” at the way the news had been announced.

In a statement, Mr Hamilton said he was unveiling the deal “despite the extremely constrained financial position”, adding that it matched last year’s arrangement.

He added that the pay agreements the unions want “would cost my Department’s budget close to £40m and are simply unaffordable in current circumstances”.