Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland nurses to strike on January 8 and 10 claiming 'no one taking health crisis seriously'

Pat Cullen (third left), director of the RCN in NI, with nurses outside the Royal Victoria Hospital
Pat Cullen (third left), director of the RCN in NI, with nurses outside the Royal Victoria Hospital
Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital - About 15,500 nurses in Northern Ireland took strike action last week in a dispute over pay and patient safety. 18/12/2019 Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
Mark Edwards

By Mark Edwards

Nurses in Northern Ireland will go on strike twice in the space of 72 hours next month.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has confirmed action for January 8 and 10.

Pat Cullen, the director of the RCN in Northern Ireland, said: “Nurses in Northern Ireland are angry that no one appears to be taking seriously the crisis in our health service.

“By now, no one in Northern Ireland, or indeed the rest of the UK, can be in any doubt about the inequalities in health care that people in Northern Ireland are facing.

“Yet, here we are, a day before Christmas, with the prospect of nursing staff taking strike action again in early January.”

More than 15,000 nurses took to picket lines last Wednesday, with paramedics also staging a 24 hour walkout.

Attempts by the political parties to restore the Assembly and legislate on pay parity between nurses here and the rest of the UK have so far failed.

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There has been industrial action in Northern Ireland (Liam McBurney/PA)

Ms Cullen added: “We have written to the Secretary of State to say that we are extremely disappointed to learn of the failure of the health summit last week to produce any resolution to the safe staffing and pay parity issues that form the basis of our action.

“We are also disappointed to hear that attempts to negotiate an agreement leading to the restoration of the devolved institutions has failed.

“Although we wish to see political leadership and accountability restored, nurses deeply resent the link that is being made between this and resolving the crisis in health care.

“Sorting out this crisis is a priority regardless of our political situation, which has been in disarray for the past three years.

“We do not have another three years to wait.

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RCN workers at Belfast City Hospital as part of continuing strike action in the health service. Press Eye

“We wonder how much longer this inaction can continue before somebody, somewhere, can take a decision to rectify the problems we are facing?”

Patricia McKeown, regional sectary of Unison, also said that unions are making plans for further strike action in early January. The details of this separate action will be announced on January 3.

Ms McKeown said Unison members are angry that politicians have not resolved the dispute despite agreeing to bring in pay parity when the Assembly is restored.

“The right of workers to pay parity and safe staffing levels cannot be dependent on the success or failure of political talks to restore devolution,” she said.

“We have repeatedly insisted that a mechanism to end this dispute already exists.

“The use of health workers as political leverage and the compliance of senior civil servants in that strategy is nothing less than shameful.

“Our members will continue to take industrial action in the form of a work to rule across the system and are currently making plans for further strike action in early January.”

The Department of Health has previously said that it remained “focused on finding a way forward”.


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