A cross-party commitment to a payment necessary to avert planned strike action by local NHS workers this Wednesday
Welcoming the commencement of fresh inter-party talks on the restoration of a functioning Northern Ireland Executive, Kevin McAdam Unite Lead officer for Health, called on all parties to commit to restoring pay parity as a key plank of the negotiations.
“The 2014 decision of the Minister for Health to break pay parity and those of subsequent Ministers who failed to reverse this policy opened a pay gap between NHS workers in Northern Ireland and in England, Scotland and Wales. In the more than one thousand days of absence of a functioning government, that gap has only widened because of the way these decisions have been interpreted by the likes of Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly in the Department of Health.
“The result has been an unprecedented crisis in staffing resulting from huge challenges to the recruitment and retention of healthcare workers. In the absence of any meaningful workforce development programme, this has led to the colossal waste of hundreds of millions of pounds spent on securing staff through private sector agencies. The resulting squeeze on NHS budgets has left 300,000 on waiting lists – the highest proportion anywhere in the UK – an engineered crisis which will now be used by the advocates of private health care to justify even further outsourcing of NHS budgets.
“Today’s multi-party talks offer some hope for a return to a functioning or accountable devolved administration. In advance of the recent elections, all local political parties committed themselves to a position to restore pay parity for NHS workers in Northern Ireland. As such, we believe that a key plank of today’s talks should include a cross-party commitment to such payments as will allow the planned twenty-four hour strike by all four health unions, Unite, Unison, NIPSA and the RCN to be halted.
“This would be the clearest sign that the parties are committed to work together for the good of all the citizens of Northern Ireland and could mandate the Permanent Secretary in the Department of Health to move to resolve the current pay dispute”, Mr McAdam concluded.