Health strikes: NI unions suspend industrial action

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Northern Ireland health workers’ unions have suspended strike action following talks with the Department of Health.

Unison and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) were staging industrial action in protest against pay and staffing.

RCN members were due to strike again on Monday, Wednesday and Friday next week.

On Tuesday, unions had a “positive” meeting the health minister, who offered £30m to restore pay parity. Further talks with the Department continued into Wednesday night.

The Unite union is expected to follow suit later on Thursday, while NIPSA has said it is not happy with the deal.

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Ms Cullen said it has been a “long and difficult road” for nurses

Anne Speed, Unison’s head of bargaining, said the union will ballot its members with a recommendation to accept the agreement.

Pat Cullen, Director of the RCN in Northern Ireland, said the strikes have “been a long and difficult road for nurses in Northern Ireland”.

“Following the unprecedented decision to take strike action, our members finally have something concrete to consider in relation to both the restoration of pay parity and safe staffing,” she said.

Talks between senior union officials and the Department of Health lasted most of Wednesday.

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Ms Speed raised said the union will now ballot its members on the agreement

Previously, Health Minister Robin Swann gave a commitment to meet the unions demands for pay parity after £30m of additional funding was identified from future funds.

An agreement around how the department would implement the necessary processes to increase the number of staff working across the health and social care service is yet to be agreed.

As a result of the suspension, the five health trusts will not have to proceed with cancelling appointments and procedures next week.

Another positive move is that workers will not lose further pay.

‘Deeply concerned’

But the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA) said it is not happy with how the negotiations were handled.

The BBC understands that it will not be calling off its industrial action.

A source said that the union was deeply concerned about how the conduct of the negotiations and the amount of money that has been promised in the pay deal.

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