Nurses to strike for the first time in December

A&E departments are becoming increasingly busy year on year. (Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire)
A&E departments are becoming increasingly busy year on year. (Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire)

Nurses across the North are set to strike next month over a staffing and pay crisis.

Members of the Royal College of Nursing are to strike for 12 hours on December 18.

Some 96% of RCN members who returned their ballot papers voted to take industrial action and 92% voted to take strike action.

This is the first time in the RCN’s 103 year history that members have voted to take such action.

Three further days of industrial action, short of strike action, will be held on December 3, 10 and 11.

This will see members decline to do any task that is not patient-specific, including not working unpaid hours, not completing paper work other than individual patient records, not answering phones on wards and not preparing or cleaning empty beds when a patient is discharged.

Pat Cullen, Director of the RCN in Northern Ireland, claimed: “Nurses are very disappointed that there has been no further meaningful engagement with the Department of Health regarding the safe staffing and pay crisis that we are facing in Northern Ireland.

“While no nurse wants to take this action, unfortunately we have been left with no choice and we are now carrying out the instructions that our members have clearly voted for. We will have further details on the impact this will have upon services closer to the time.”

UNISON has also announced its members in the health and social services system have voted to take industrial action.

Local Sinn Féin health spokesperson, Sandra Duffy, said that underpaid workers in the health system deserve the support of the community.

The Department of Health said it remains focussed on finding a way forward and is currently finalising a formal pay offer for 2019/20.

“This will be the best offer possible within the budget available, but the reality is that our ability to address pay issues is inevitably constrained at a time of intense budgetary pressures for health and social care services,” The Department stated.