“The timing of this trade union statement is hugely disappointing, given the progress towards a pay settlement that has recently been made", said a Department of Health spokesperson.
“We, of course, understand the frustration of staff and their trade union representatives, caused by financial and political constraints outside all of our control. Trade union leaders know and have acknowledged that we have been working hard to find solutions.
“The reality is that we can't simply spend money we don't have on issues that require authority that hasn't yet been granted to us. That is a fundamental principle of managing public money, and one we rightly take very seriously. We have consistently made this point very clear to the trade unions.
“However, there has now been movement on two fronts towards a pay award that will make a positive difference to our hardworking and dedicated staff.
“Firstly, the Department of Finance has signalled that it is considering how it might introduce a NI pay policy, now that the new legislation on decision-making is in place. Secondly, we are making progress with our work to secure the funding required for a 2018/19 pay deal.
“We are optimistic of a positive outcome to these two strands of work, which we hope to conclude in the very near future.”
Notes to editors:
- The Department of Health cannot make a health and social care staff pay award for 2018/19 until an overarching Northern Ireland public sector pay policy is set by Department of Finance.
- The situation has been complicated this year with no Ministers and court rulings limiting civil service decision making.
- It is hoped that a way forward is now possible, as this Department of Finance statement issued in recent days explained: “The Department of Finance is actively considering the determination of pay policy for 2018/19 in light of the Secretary of State’s legislation on decision making in NI which has completed its passage in Westminster. Once a pay policy is in place, it will enable Departments and other public sector employers to develop and bring pay proposals forward for approval. We hope to make an announcement very soon.”
- Pay decisions also have to be affordable. There are well documented financial pressures facing health and social care – and many other public services.
- Reflecting its commitment to staff, the Department of Health is seeking to secure the additional funding required for a 2018/19 pay award that stands comparison to this year’s increase in England. We are very hopeful this will be successful.
- No “unilateral decision” has been made, despite the claim in the union statement. Instead, the Department has been proactively working with the Department of Finance to get as good a deal as possible for our staff in what is a very challenging political and financial context. We remain hopeful that we will be able to discuss issues of detail – within the available funding – with trade union colleagues.
- The NHS pay deal in GB means additional funding for Northern Ireland under the Barnett Formula. This extra funding, however, will not cover the cost of a like-for-like deal here. That’s because the Agenda for Change framework covers health and social care workers in N Ireland, compared to just health staff in England. The Barnett consequentials give NI its share for a health staff increase, but this does not cover social care employees.
- A 2018/19 pay increase for NI health and social care staff will be backdated to the beginning of the financial year (1 April 2018). Staff will also get their pay progression increments in addition to the 2018/19 increase.
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