Union hopes legislation can ‘break logjam on NHS pay’ in Northern Ireland

A new Bill intended to assist senior civil servants who have been left to take decisions in Northern Ireland must ease UK disparity in healthcare workers’ pay, a trade union has said.

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley introduced the new Bill to the House of Commons on Thursday.

The Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Bill is intended to encourage political parties to agree a return to powersharing government.

It also offers guidance to senior civil servants at Northern Ireland departments who have been left to make decisions in the absence of ministers.

The region has been without devolved government since January 2017 following a breakdown of relations between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Trade union Unite has welcomed the legislation and said it should open the door to movement on healthcare workers’ pay.

Unite regional officer Kevin McAdam said Northern Ireland’s healthcare workers have been left behind the rest of the UK.

“As a direct result of the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Executive, healthcare workers here have been denied the pay increase that has been agreed and extended to workers in all other parts of the United Kingdom,” he said.

“NHS workers in England, Scotland and Wales voted to accept a three-year pay deal tied to changes in their terms and conditions. This pay deal was funded by HM Treasury to the tune of £4.2 billion.

“Unfortunately political failure in Northern Ireland has left the corresponding funding here tied up. Healthcare workers know the money is waiting for them but can’t receive it.

“In this context, Unite welcomes this legislation which offers some hope that the logjam on NHS pay can be broken.

“We call on the Permanent Secretary for the Department of Health, Richard Pengelly, to open negotiations with the trade unions on pay immediately now that he has the authority to make this decision.”