UNISON Northern Ireland

UNISON challenges Department of Health claims on fair pay for health workers

UNISON notes media coverage in relation to claims made by the Department of Health in a briefing for MLAs that introducing pay parity for health workers in Northern Ireland would add £103 million to the pay bill this year. Responding to these claims, UNISON Head of Bargaining and Representation, Anne Speed said:

“The information that the Department of Health is sending to our political parties on the issue of pay is partial, incomplete and misleading.

It is misleading to state that to introduce pay parity would add £103 million to the pay bill this year. The funding that is actually needed does not match this figure. However there is still a significant shortfall to be addressed.

It should be recognised that a one-year settlement will not provide a sustainable solution to the ongoing lack of pay parity for NHS workers in Northern Ireland compared to England, Scotland and Wales. We have been clear with the Department that a multi-year settlement is required. 

In its briefing to political parties, the Department has chosen to ignore that health workers in Northern Ireland are the lowest paid compared to NHS workers in England, Scotland and Wales. It has also chosen to ignore that the failure to implement fair pay is destabilising the workforce by causing staff to leave the health service.

Without fair pay, the health service will continue to be unable to recruit and retain the staff it needs and public money will continue to be squandered on high cost agency staffing to plug the gaps.

Once again the Department is claiming that it would need to cut services to fund an increase in pay. Trade unions have never at any stage sought that services be cut to fund a pay award. Such a suggestion is an insult to all health workers who are under extreme pressure to keep services running.

As the Department is well aware, we have consistently argued that it must make the case to the Department of Finance and UK Treasury for additional resources to fund fair pay.

UNISON has today written to health spokespersons from the political parties to challenge the claims made by the Department and set the record straight. We are now in a General Election campaign and we are calling on all parties to support health workers in their justified claims for fair pay.

UNISON members must make their voice heard by returning their ballot today voting yes for industrial action.”