Belfast Telegraph

Health union goes on strike

Industrial action took place across the country.

Members of Northern Ireland’s largest health workers union have gone on strike over pay and staffing levels. University staff also took action (ICTU/PA)
Members of Northern Ireland’s largest health workers union have gone on strike over pay and staffing levels. University staff also took action (ICTU/PA)

By Michael McHugh, PA

Members of Northern Ireland’s largest health workers union have gone on strike over pay and staffing levels.

Industrial action took place across the country.

Protests were held at Antrim Area Hospital, the City Hospital and the Ulster Hospital among others.

Joe McCusker, Unison regional organiser, said they had received a lot of support.

He said: “We are saddened by the fact that the Department of Health and employers are not doing enough for them, but they are determined in their campaign for pay justice to be paid the same as anyone else in the UK.”

Intensive contingency planning is being undertaken to mitigate the impact of industrial action on patients and other service users Department of Health Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly

He said the department should go and find the money, from the department of finance, the Treasury or save cash on agency spending.

He said the action was taken over pay parity with the rest of the UK, since workers are paid less in Northern Ireland.

He added: “Our workers are seeking pay justice, to be paid the same as their colleagues.”

The first phase of industrial action will run from November 25 to December 18. The second will run to March 2020.

The University and College Union (UCU) also took action on Monday.

ICTU assistant general secretary Owen Reidy said: “They are saying they have had enough.

“They are demanding pay justice, they are standing up for their patients just as you are standing up for your students. Always remember that you are not on your own.”

Department of Health Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly said the department “did everything in its power to prevent industrial action”.

“Intensive contingency planning is being undertaken to mitigate the impact of industrial action on patients and other service users,” he said.

“It is nevertheless inevitable that there will be an impact on patients. This has been publicly acknowledged by the trade union leadership.”

The head of the civil service David Sterling added that he was “very aware of the deep frustrations in public sector workforces” but said there are “no easy fixes”.

“This reflects many successive years of budgetary pressures and pay restraint. The frustrations are very evident in a number of sectors and it is a matter of great regret for us all to see discontent of this level among colleagues.

“There are no easy fixes in our current situation to these problems but dialogue offers the best way forward.”

PA

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