Belfast Telegraph

Thousands of Northern Ireland NHS health workers stage four-hour strike over pay

By Claire Williamson

Thousands of workers from across the health service have mounted picket lines outside Northern Ireland hospitals today.

Health workers including midwives, nurses, radiographers, cleaners and psychiatric staff staged the fresh strike in a bitter row with the Government over pay.

Members of 11 unions will walk out for four hours from 8am in protest at the coalition's controversial decision not to accept a recommended 1% wage rise for all NHS employees.

It ended at 12pm.

The main demonstrations took place at the acute centres but bus loads were taken to Bangor and Craigavon.

In a statement Unite the Union said: "Our members cannot and will not sit back and take further cuts to our pay.

"We have to stand up for the service we provide. We are all proud of our NHS and what it stands for but what we see now is it being damaged deliberately and patient safety compromised in favour of balancing books and making austerity cuts.

Unite is the largest trade union in Northern Ireland with more than 4,000 members in the Health Service.

Kevin McAdam from Unite the Union said: "We have around 200 people at the Royal Victoria Hospital alone.

"We filled two and a-half-buses for those that went on to Bangor as part of the demonstration, that's an indication of the numbers we had.

"We don't expect everybody to show up on picket line."

He added:"The support was very good for the second day and so close to Christmas shows that people's determination is still up.

Looking to the future fellow Unite spokesman 'David Moorehead added: "Staff can not keep coming out indefinitely on strike action so we need to look at other ways of maybe taking action that doesn't always involve strike action."

Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey accompanied by Junior Minister Jennifer McCann joined health workers on the picket line at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Mr Maskey said: “The British Tory Government has implemented a policy of pay freezes and year-on-year cuts, which in reality are pay cuts which have left many within the health service in poverty.

“The vast majority of workers within the health service are under paid and deserve to have a decent wage.

“The service these people provide should not be taken for granted and we must support their call for a decent wage.

“Myself and colleagues including Junior Minister Jennifer McCann and Pat Sheehan have joined the picket line this morning to show our support for proper wages and conditions for health workers."

Unison leader Dave Prentis said the strike "sound alarm bells ringing" in Westminster.

Unions have struck deals with the administrations in Scotland and Wales, increasing their anger at Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who they accuse of refusing to discuss the long-running row. The minister has erected a "Berlin wall of intransigence", the unions said.

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