Belfast Telegraph

Strikes only alienate the public

Editor's Viewpoint

There is grave concern over how today's strike by public service workers, especially those in the health service, will impact on the general public. With the health unions and management failing to agree on a safe level of ambulance service for urgent, but non-life-threatening, calls, the worry is that people with serious conditions could face lengthy delays in obtaining treatment.

While the strike is legal - although unions have declined to reveal the numbers of workers voting for action - it is regrettable that the protocols in place for the ambulance service are not more extensive.

Elderly people falling in their homes, some stroke patients and children who suffer broken limbs are real emergencies to the families involved even if they are not so classified by the ambulance service.

As well, many routine hospital appointments or planned surgery or treatment will also be postponed which will cause huge annoyance to those who may have had to wait lengthy periods to reach that point.

The cancellation of all Translink bus and train services is another huge blow, especially to the thousands of people who use public transport to get to work and who will not be taking part in the strike action today.

Many schools will also have to close as pupils will not be able to reach their classrooms. The schoolchildren may not regard this as a particular hardship, but again it is disruption that we could well do without.

The unions argue that strike action is their most potent way of protesting about what they regard as threats to the future of public services due to the austerity measures being introduced by Stormont. There is a certain validity in their argument, but it is a point which may well be lost on those who find their lives severely disrupted today.

There is no doubt that the economy will suffer today with hard-pressed retailers fearing that sales will plummet and many other businesses concerned about the levels of staff who will be able to get to work.

The Northern Ireland economy is fragile and recovery has been glacially slow. A strike on the scale of that planned today will create a poor image of a province keen to do business.

Strikes are often pyrrhic victories and the unions would have been better advised to seek to resolve their concerns through on-going negotiations with the various managements and avoid alienating the public.

Belfast Telegraph

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