The starting pay for nurses is less than the living wage on the island according to the Royal College or Nursing (RCN).
Nurses in the union went on strike yesterday [Thursday] for the second time this year in protest over fairer pay and safer staffing levels.
So far RCN members have marched from Noble’s Hospital to the Tynwald Building, set out on a campaign bus tour around the island, held two 12-hour strike actions with two more planned for next month, and this week have warned the government and Manx Care that other nursing unions who are deputising for them could soon be joining them on the picket line.
A large number of appointments and services were postponed yesterday because of the industrial action, and will be again even more so in the back-to-back strikes in October.
The most recent pay offer (May 2023) was a £1,000 consolidated payment for the year 2022-23 in addition to the 6% awarded in November 2022.
In total, across 2021-22 and 2022-23, the overall offer from Manx Care amounts to a 10% pay increase, but the arm’s length government organisation has repeatedly said it doesn’t have the funds to offer anymore.
The island’s biggest nursing union originally said it’s looking for a 15% pay increase, but last week RCN’s regional director for the North West, Estephanie Dunn, said that figure isn’t specifically what their members are wanting.
Clair Green, ward sister at Noble’s Hospital and the RCN Isle of Man secretary, described the pay starting nurses get as ‘disgraceful’
She said: ‘The government has actually produced a document recently on living wage on the Isle of Man which clearly says that to survive on the Isle of Man you need to be earning more than £12 an hour and our starting health care assistant wage is only £11.23 an hour.
‘It’s disgraceful that a government that are saying you’ve got to earn more than £12 aren’t paying their employees that.
When asked if she thinks the protests and strike action are making government listen, she said: ‘We’re certainly raising public awareness and I think recent statements that have come out from Manx Care show that they’re taking notice at least, even if they don’t agree with what we’re doing.’
Manx Care has said it remains open to dialogue with RCN members but their options remain limited.
Clair Green continued: ‘We can only hope that people who have got the power to change this can start to take some notice of us, because the state of the hospital and our community service is not caused by us striking, that is the cause of us striking’.
Some of the other RCN members at the picket line all reiterated the fact that they didn’t want to be striking but feel it’s extremely important for the future of nursing.
Pietro Ragusa, from Italy, is a bank registered nurse at Noble’s Hospital and has been in the island for the past eight years.
He said: ‘Me and my colleagues all want the same thing.
‘From my perspective the reason why I’m striking isn’t just about the pay, but the whole workplace culture [at Noble’s Hospital] needs to change and we need more support for the staff.
‘I think the campaigns are helping, we live in a democratic place like Italy, so we have the power to tell the people what’s going wrong and even though Manx Care employed me my real boss is the patients.
‘We just hope the patients and the people on the island can hear our voice, they’re so important to us.’
Ashley Bates is a registered mental health nurse and specialist.
He emphasised the importance of yesterday’s strike action.
He said: ‘We’re here today for different reasons, pay is one of them, but it’s important that people recognise we’re not just here for that, it’s for safe staffing and ensuring we can give a level of patient care that makes sure everyone’s looked after to the best of our ability.
‘I think the department is not engaging with us as well as we would like, they’ve sent a very clear message that the pot is empty and what we would say in response to that is they need to lobby government and ask for more.
‘We’ve had numerous years where we’ve been chronically underfunded, which is again not just about pay but in regards especially to the amount of staff we have on the wards.’
Greg Manning is an advanced nurse practioner and looks after a range of patients but mainly inflammatory bowel disease.
He said: ‘I think this is really important, for example I’m going to have another 30 years until I retire and inflation is going to rise over the years and our wages won’t be in line with it.
‘Essentially what we’re going to end up having is nurses either not coming into the profession or leaving because they need to be able to support their family and kids.
‘It’s important, we need to keep nurses and recruit more.’