Nurse strikes over pay on the Isle of Man have been paused as the health service has put forward a new offer.
Two days of nursing strikes were scheduled for 18 and 19 October to demand a better pay deal from Manx Care, the island government’s arms-length healthcare organisation.
“[The offer will] mean something different to every voting member depending on their pay banding and personal circumstances”
Manx Care previously told Nursing Times it was unable to enhance an offer of a £1,000 consolidated rise for the 2022-23 financial year, on top of 6% which had already been implemented for that year.
A spokesperson for the organisation said this was because it had exhausted funding for pay offers from the island’s Department of Health and Social Care.
This offer, which one Royal College of Nursing (RCN) representative called an “insult”, was rejected by union members on the island.
Yesterday (10 October), the RCN announced it was putting the strikes on hold, after Manx Care issued a new pay offer.
This new offer, the union has said, is for a 2.75% consolidated uplift on the already implemented 6%.
However, Nursing Times calculations suggest this new deal is worth less for some nurses than the rejected £1,000 consolidated rise deal would have been.
More on the Isle of Man pay dispute
For a nurse currently being paid £35,505 per year (band 6, grade 1), that £1,000 rise would represent a 2.82% pay rise; for a nurse paid £31,540 per year (band 5, grade 1), £1,000 would be a pay rise of 3.17%.
The 2.75% offer, from Manx Care, is worth £976 for a band 6, grade 1 staff member and £867 for a band 5, grade 1 healthcare worker.
For all staff at band 6, grade 2 (£36,886 per year) or above, and for those in the upper band 5 grades, the new deal is worth more than the previous £1,000 consolidated one.
An RCN spokesperson acknowledged that the offer would “mean something different to every voting member depending on their pay banding and personal circumstances”.
They added: “The previous £1,000 offer, which was rejected by RCN members earlier this year, is not part of this survey and we are urging members to use their voices and vote on this 2.75% offer, which is in addition to the previously imposed 6% for this pay year.”
Estephanie Dunn, regional director for the RCN in the North West of England, said the union was “pleased to have been invited back” to negotiations with Manx Care.
“Talks were more positive, however until we had any offer in writing it would be naïve to have paused our strike action,” said Ms Dunn.
“Our members have made it clear that they have had enough, through their strong representation on the picket line.
“We have consulted with the local branch and regional board and the decision has been made to pause action until members have had their say.”
She described the new deal as a “step in the right direction”, but added: “It will ultimately be our members who decide if the offer is enough to end this dispute, for now.
“We still have some way to go to really believe that the Manx government are investing in the sustainable future of nursing on the Isle of Man.
“This is about fair pay for a profession that is so valuable to the community, protecting the health and care sector on the island, and ensuring patients get the care they deserve.”
The strikes, while centring on pay, also saw nurses shine a light on other workforce and working condition issues they felt needed addressing.
Recruitment, retention and the issue of continued professional development were all mentioned by striking staff, echoing the debates around industrial action in the UK.
During the first walkouts, in July, Debbie Wolfendale, a registered nurse and RCN North West vice secretary, said: “We’re losing so many experienced staff and we can’t replace them.
“We’re not here for the pay, but we need to encourage people to join, and they don’t want to join because we have nurses going to charity banks.
“We’ve been in dispute for three years, and what we want is an enhanced deal. What we’re asking for is not an extortionate amount to help us with recruitment.”
Another nurse said she felt “disrespected” by the previous offers made, and said the workforce situation on the island was “serious”.
Manx Care was approached for comment about the new offer but did not provide one.
However, Manx Care chief executive Teresa Cope told local radio station Manx Radio today that she was pleased the RCN had paused the strikes.
Ms Cope explained that both the new offer, and the £1,000 consolidated offer which RCN rejected, were made possible by “additional” funding from the island’s treasury, as well as with backing from the Isle of Man Department of Health and Social Care.
She said: “We’ve had to work really closely with the Treasury and Department of Health and Social Care, to put together this revised offer.
“It is a really positive step that RCN has called off industrial action and is putting the offer to their membership.”
When the October strikes were first called, a Manx Care spokesperson said it “respects and acknowledges” the right of nurses to take industrial action.
They said: “Equally, we are aware of the disruption that this will undoubtedly cause to patients, service users, members of the public and our colleagues who work to provide cover during the forthcoming strike periods.
“Manx Care remains open to dialogue with RCN members.
“However, our options remain limited due to our financial constraints and having exhausted our funding envelope.
“All funding that has been received by the organisation to be used for pay awards has already been used to fund pay awards.
“Given the current financial position that Manx Care faces, making any further pay offer at this point is not possible and Manx Care is seeking support from [the Isle of Man Department of Health and Social Care] to assist in resolving this matter.”