On behalf of the HSC Central Panel and its HSC Pay Policy Sub-Group, it was agreed to update members on the various developments that have occurred in relation to pay for the year 18/19 and prospects for years 19/20 and 20/21.


You will be aware, that 3 year deals including a Refresh of the Agenda for Change Framework and a pay uplift was agreed in England, Scotland and Wales, backdated to April 2018. These deals ranged from 6.5% to 9% over 3 years. Money was made available by the Treasury to fund a pay deal in Northern Ireland.

NIPSA, along with the other HSC Trade Unions in Northern Ireland, were in discussions with the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Finance (DOF) and Employers about a Refresh of the Agenda for Change Framework and a pay uplift since June 2018.

By way of a reminder, the NIPSA demands were that our HSC Employers should implement pay parity plus the restoration of payscales. NIPSA also rejected any AFC Refresh Agreement that would result in a detrimental impact to your terms and conditions.

We further argued for:

  1. The immediate uplift of Northern Ireland payscales for work of equal value across the National AFC payscales;

  2. Parity with the region with the largest pay differentials with Northern Ireland i.e. Scotland;

  3. A 2018/19 in year cost of living wage rise above inflation, which begins to address the fact that for the last 8 years pay awards have been below the rate of inflation;

  4. Acknowledge the fact that low pay lies at the heart of the recruitment and retention crisis and commit to restoration/pay parity to address the problem;

NIPSA was extremely persuasive and instrumental in encouraging the other HSC Trade Unions/Staff Side Organisations to adopt our policy position and to seek these objectives. It was us who argued to seek an interim solution by abolishing Band 1 and to demand a 3% pay uplift for all staff backdated to 1 April 2018 as “Payment on Account.”

The rationale for doing this was that it was evident that neither the DOH nor Employers were in a position to negotiate a Framework given their delaying approach and the restricted time frame available in which to do all of this.

A series of meetings were held with Employers, the DOH and the DOF involving their Permanent Secretaries and officials. When the Trade Unions met again with those officials on 9 November 2018 it was to be told that a unilateral decision had been made by the DOH to impose a 1 year pay award.

This bid fell well short of the interim proposal put by the HSC Trade Unions on 26 September 2018 and the DOH subsequently ended up with a budget for pay which was insufficient to meet the Agenda For Change uplift as per the other 3 countries as the quantum of the award was 2.97% and not 3%.

Such an approach demonstrated a total lack of respect for the HSC Trade Unions as the representatives of staff employed in the NHS in Northern Ireland. The Trade Unions response was to seek an urgent consultation with their respective members who voted overwhelmingly (97%) to give a mandate to ballot them for industrial action (at a later stage) to pursue a fair pay award if no agreement was reached with DOH and Employers.

Ultimately there was no agreement and on the 17 December 2018 the following statement was issued to HSC Staff:

“Agenda for Change was introduced in 2004, bringing together several pay arrangements into one overall pay structure underpinned by job evaluation. Whilst its success is well recognised, there is an accepted need across the UK for modernisation in a number of areas.

The Department of Health, HSC employers and Trade Unions are all clear that there is a need for a journey to achieve this reform. Equally there is also a commitment to Agenda for Change as a UK wide framework.

After extensive discussions between the Department of Health, HSC employers and trade unions, it is recorded that no formal agreement has been reached.

The Department of Health, however, has concluded that its proposal of 22 November 2018 represents the most appropriate way forward, as it is based on the Agenda for Change Refresh principles. The Department of Health will proceed towards implementation with a view to having the award paid to staff before the end of the financial year.

The Department of Health, HSC employers and Trade Unions are all committed to advance preparatory work as far as possible so that informed recommendations can be made in order to reach an acceptable Refresh of Agenda for Change.”

To try and make sense of all of this and to help identify how this imposed pay award will directly affect you – I am enclosing the following attachments:

  1. DOH circular dated 6 Feb 2019 with information on the payscales for 2018/19.

  2. BSO document – HSC Pay Award and pension band review 2018/19: frequently asked questions for HSC employers.

  3. BSO Document – Pay Award 2018/19 – for the attention of all staff on Agenda For Change terms and conditions.

  4. NIPSA document – payscales indicating where pension contribution increases will impact on certain AFC bands.

In relation to the above enclosures, members will no doubt determine how this pay award will impact on them directly.

However, the NIPSA Pay Policy Group by way of a very brief initial analysis shows the quantum of the award in some instances is very derisory, for example –

“A band 5 (at the top of their band) stands to gain just under 50p/ hour before any deductions are taken. Those who have not reached the top of their banding will receive just under 25p/ hour before deductions.”

Regrettably, we also need to advise that yet again because of the late implementation of the 2018/19 pay award (due in Salaries in Feb 2019) this pay award is going to lead to a number of staff being negatively impacted in terms of a pension contribution increase which may negate the benefit of any pay increase and arrears arising out of the implementation of the 2018/19 pay award.

Summary/The Way Forward

The DOH decision to unilaterally impose this pay award does not mean that NIPSA and the other HSC Trade Unions have or will give up on our members demands for a real pay rise for health workers

The DOH remain adamant that only a Minister can authorise pay realignment and/or set a new public sector pay policy that will allow for full funding of the AFC Refresh as per the other 3 countries. The HSC Trade Unions have advocated that any AFC Refresh does not need ministerial approval to spend funding already set aside at Westminster.

Discussions have already taken place with the DOH and Employers involving National Negotiators who were brought across from the Joint Council to advise both the Employers and the HSC Trade Unions how the Refresh Agreement was arrived at in England both in terms of funding and in their ability to deliver a 3 year deal.

The HSC trade unions in Northern Ireland are committed to achieving pay parity with at least England and Wales. However, NIPSA’s position is to achieve pay parity with the highest region, Scotland.

For Example:Pay Scales 2017/18

England Band 2 £18,157 Band 5 £28,746
Scotland Band 2 £18,903 Band 5 £29,034
Northern Ireland Band 2 £17,775 Band 5 £28,462

The HSC NIPSA Policy Pay Group has acknowledged that the aims set out by NIPSA have not been achieved in terms of securing a 3% uplift for all employees. This was thwarted by the simple fact that the DOH/DOF submitted a bid on a quantum of 2.97% which was the cost of the pay bill for the England deal in the year 2018/19 but fell short of the money required to implement the same deal in Northern Ireland.

We were instrumental in finally breaching the pay freeze and getting a public sector pay policy for Northern Ireland established and an increase greater in quantum terms of other pay awards proposed for other parts of the public sector in Northern Ireland.

However, NIPSA views it as incredible and hard to reconcile that staff should be detrimentally impacted by increase pension contributions after receiving a pay award! We believe the responsibility to find a solution lies with the Department Of Health and the Employers. We will take all appropriate steps to ensure that this is remedied in the future and that mitigation is afforded to staff who are negatively impacted.

If the Department and Employers wish to move onto years 2 and 3 of a Refresh Agreement, we believe that NIPSA, as a major stakeholder in the process, should not engage with any DOH proposals until our minimum pay demand of 3% for all staff is met. We further reiterate that we will never accept a Refresh Agreement that will see staff lose hard won gains currently within our terms and conditions such as cuts in unsocial hours payments or attacks on incremental pay.

Our mandate for industrial action was for 3% on account for all grades; this has not been achieved. NIPSA is now proposing that that we must encourage other HSC Trade Unions and Staff Side Organisations that a ballot calling for future industrial action must remain a live option and an objective if we are to achieve our aims.

Kevin McCabe
Assistant Secretary