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The ballot on a new pay agreement for health service workers is welcomed by health minister Robin Swann.

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In addition to offering a consolidated pay increase of 5%, the proposed settlement seeks to restore pay parity for thousands of healthcare workers and provides an unconsolidated lump amount.

A non-consolidated payment of £1,505 is included in the offer, which has a backdate of April 2023, for all employees who are subject to Agenda for Change terms and conditions. UNISON, which has expressed pleasure with the progress made, has drawn attention to the difficulties experienced by health workers as a result of cost-of-living crises and rising prices.

Unison has noted that, in spite of this encouraging progress, health professionals in Northern Ireland continue to receive lower wages than those in Scotland and Wales even after pay parity with England was restored. For trade unions, closing this disparity will continue to be a top priority in the next pay cycle.

Minister Swann underlined the significance of the ballot as a constructive move toward acknowledging the priceless services provided by health and social care personnel. He emphasized that political and fiscal volatility had caused delays in achieving pay settlements and restated that the settlements will be applied retrospectively starting in April 2023.

In addition, nurses will be consulted on the pay offer, which contains the same non-consolidated payment and consolidated pay uplift, and the lowest pay values for Bands 1 and 2 will be eliminated.

Rita Devlin, director of RCN Northern Ireland, responded by expressing displeasure that the non-consolidated portion of the wage award is less than what her English colleagues earned. Although Devlin acknowledged advancements, she also drew attention to the ongoing challenges faced by nursing staff and underlined the necessity of a comprehensive approach to address the notable pay decrease over the previous ten years.

To give its members time to evaluate the offer and decide how to vote, the RCN will be holding a consultation on the proposed salary settlement.

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