Belfast Telegraph

First nurses, now other NHS staff to vote on strike

Healthcare workers across Northern Ireland are taking on second jobs as they struggle to survive on their NHS wages, it has been claimed. (stock photo)
Healthcare workers across Northern Ireland are taking on second jobs as they struggle to survive on their NHS wages, it has been claimed. (stock photo)

By Lisa Smyth

Healthcare workers across Northern Ireland are taking on second jobs as they struggle to survive on their NHS wages, it has been claimed.

Public service union Unison said the experiences of members reveal the harrowing personal toll on families as a result of chronic underfunding of the health service here.

The union is currently balloting its members over possible strike action after eight months of pay talks with the Department of Health broke down without agreement. The vote closes today and the results are expected to be announced within the next 24 hours.

One Unison member, a hospital domestic, said: "A 20-hour contract is not really a liveable wage when I have rent to pay and a daughter to look after, so I'm forced to work overtime on top of my own contract continually.

"On a regular week I work 50 hours. That's not healthy for me and it also takes the time away that I should be spending with my daughter."

Another Unison member, who works in support services, revealed she has to work overtime just so she can afford to go to work.

She said: "I need to work extra hours to pay my car just to get to work. I live at home and pay keep as I can't afford to save for a mortgage, and I had to take on another job outside the trust because my wages weren't paying enough to live on."

Last week the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in Northern Ireland announced that 92% of respondents to its ballot had voted in favour of strike action. The vote turnout was 43.3%.

If Unison members vote in favour of industrial action it could mean tens of thousands of NHS workers across Northern Ireland staging walk-outs in the coming months.

Belfast Telegraph

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