Nurses in Northern Ireland return to picket lines for second day of strike action

Northern Ireland nurses on the picket lines. Pacemaker
It's the second time nurses from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have gone on strike this side of Christmas. Credit: Pacemaker

Nurses in Northern Ireland are joining their colleagues from England and Wales on the picket line again today.

It's the second time nurses from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have gone on strike this side of Christmas.

They also walked out last Thursday in a row over pay and conditions.

Ministers say the salary rise demanded by unions is unaffordable.

The RCN has been calling for a pay rise of 5% above inflation, though it has indicated it would accept a lower offer.

When it submitted the 5% figure to the independent pay review body in March, inflation was running at 7.5%.

Inflation has since soared, with RPI standing at 14.2% in September.

The Government has implemented the recommendations of the independent pay review body, which gave nurses a rise of about 4.75%, with a guaranteed minimum of £1,400.

During Tuesday's strike, the NHS will be running a bank holiday-style service in many areas as thousands of operations and procedures are cancelled and rescheduled.

The RCN has said it will still staff chemotherapy, emergency cancer services, dialysis, critical care units, neonatal and paediatric intensive care, as well as some other services.

Speaking ahead of the strike, RCN chief executive Pat Cullen said: "The Prime Minister should ask himself what is motivating nursing staff to stand outside their hospitals for a second day so close to Christmas.

"They are prepared to sacrifice a day's pay to have their concerns heard. Their determination stems as much from worries over patient safety and the future of the NHS than personal hardship.

"Rishi Sunak is under growing pressure in Westminster following last Thursday's strike and he should listen to people around him.

She added: "Let's get this wrapped up by Christmas. I will negotiate with him at any point to stop nursing staff and patients going into the new year facing such uncertainty.

"But if this Government isn't prepared to do the right thing, we'll have no choice but to continue in January and that will be deeply regrettable."

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: "The RCN's demands are unaffordable during these challenging times and would take money away from frontline services while they are still recovering from the impact of the pandemic. I'm open to engaging with the unions on how to make the NHS a better place to work."

Mr Barclay will meet unions representing striking ambulance drivers in 11th hour talks on Tuesday, although the discussions are unlikely to avert the action.

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