Members across Health and Social Care (HSC) will be aware that NIPSA alongside other Health Unions have been engaging with the Department of Health (DOH) and employers on a pay award for 2019/2020. During these discussions, NIPSA pushed for a pay uplift for NI HSC members in line with Scotland.

NIPSA’s position remains that pay lies at the centre of the problems facing HSC staff, as they are the lowest paid across the four jurisdictions. This is neither equitable nor sustainable.

On top of this, the DOH’s ineffectiveness on workforce planning has made a bad situation worse, with high levels of vacancies across the HSC adding to excessive workloads and stress, leaving members exposed to chronically unsafe staffing levels across Nursing, Social Work, Day Centres and Administration services etc. Spending hundreds of millions of pounds of scarce public money on Agency Staff at every level only compounds these systemic problems.

Over the summer, the DOH and HSC employers were alerted that if there was no progress made towards an acceptable pay offer by the end of September then the Trade Unions would be in dispute.

NIPSA’s Health Panel was appraised on the 19 September 2019 that despite the best efforts of NIPSA and other Trade Unions, there was still no offer on 2019/2020 pay. In addition, NIPSA Branches voiced deep concerns from members on unsafe staffing levels across a range of groups meaning safe practice and care quality is being compromised.

NIPSA’s Health Panel took a decision on both of these issues that if this was still the position on the 30th September 2019, NIPSA must record a failure to agree on pay, formally raise our concerns about safe staffing publically, and will from that date initiate the processes to ballot members.

NIPSA’s Health Central Panel met again on the 27th September 2019, and confirmed that, in the absence not just of any proposal from the DOH on pay but with the ongoing failure to address safe staffing issues in any meaningful way, NIPSA had no alternative but to ballot members for Industrial Action.

Preparation on this work has now commenced and ballot papers will be issued to members in the coming weeks.

Members can be assured that NIPSA did not take this decision lightly, but believe that the DOH and employers cannot be allowed to continue exploiting NIPSA members across the HSC system by underpaying and undervaluing their work in comparison with other regions. Nor can we stand by as key services delivered to the public by NIPSA members continue to be compromised through ineffective workforce planning and massively underspent payroll budgets to achieve savings targets.

In relation to pay, NIPSA and the other Trade Unions in these discussions have made it clear to the employers that we remain committed to negotiating an acceptable agreement should circumstances change.

In relation to safe staffing levels, it is NIPSA’s position that the DOH and the employers have continually failed to address this issue and that their actions continue to compromise the safety and welfare of the public. This is unacceptable on every level and poses increasing risks for staff across the Health Service.

It remains NIPSA’s intention to work collaboratively with the other Health Unions to build our industrial strength in order to achieve an acceptable outcome for members on both of these crucial issues. NIPSA will issue further information updating members on all of these matters as soon as possible.

Next steps include:

  • Discussions with other unions to agree a common approach of the balloting process, including timing and forms of action
  • Establish Strike Committees
  • Prepare and issue campaigning materials
Maria Morgan
Assistant Secretary