Belfast Telegraph

Public sector strike: Everything you need to know about the day of industrial action in Northern Ireland

Major disruption is expected on Friday 13th March, as workers go on strike across Northern Ireland

By Claire Williamson

Who is striking and why?

The day of industrial action by public sector workers - over budget cuts and job losses - will be one of the largest for years, organisers have said.

Members of the Unison and GMB unions working in health, education, the civil service and transport will join the 24-hour walkout.

Walkouts will take place at the Education and Library Boards, Roads Service, Fire and Rescue Service, Ambulance Service and the Housing Executive.

Education support workers including cleaners, catering staff, admin staff, estate staff, classroom assistants and general assistants will also be among those striking in schools.

Some teachers and nurses are also set to strike, although the main unions in both sectors have not voted to walk out.

As part of the Stormont House Agreement, up to 20,000 public service jobs could be lost, with a redundancy scheme funded from Westminster and a freeze on recruitment and promotions.

Where are the rallies taking place?

Lunch-time rallies and marches are expected to take place across the country.

Among the biggest is thought to be scheduled for Writer's Square in Belfast.

They will also take place in Derry, Strabane, Enniskillen, Omagh, Magherafelt, Cookstown, Dungannon and Newry.

Rally Times:

Belfast 12pm Writers Square with parade to city hall at 1pm

March 12.30pm rally at Belfast City Hall at 1pm

Derry 12pm Altnagelvin Hospital with parade to Guildhall Square 1pm

Strabane 12pm Market Street, 12noon rally at Abercorn Square, 1pm

Enniskillen 12.30pm  Gaol Square rally at the Diamond, 1pm

Omagh 12.30 pm Tyrone County Hospital at the Courthouse, 1pm

Magherafelt Assemble and rally at The Diamond, 10am

Cookstown Assemble and rally at The Old Post Office, 12noon

Dungannon Assemble and rally at South Tyrone Hospital, 2pm

Newry Assemble and rally at Daisy Hill Hospital, 1pm

Will there be any public transport?

Translink have cancelled all scheduled trains and buses due to the strike. Services will return to normal on Saturday March 14.

Details of ticket reimbursements can be found here.

The PSNI has said it will NOT enforce bus lanes to help the traffic flow, as more people take to their cars. However this exemption does not apply where buses use the hard shoulder on the motorways.

Commuters are advised to try and car share where possible but to give extra time for their journeys.

The Belfast Telegraph will be keeping you up to date with traffic and travel throughout the day via Twitter and Facebook.

The PSNI has issued the following advice:

  • All road users must use extreme caution if using bus lanes. Parking legislation and clearways will still be rigidly enforced, so Motorists are NOT permitted to park in bus lanes.

  • All road users must be particularly aware of cyclists and motorcyclists who normally share these lanes. Cyclists should also ensure that they are wearing hi-vis clothing and motorists should afford them space to make their journey safely.

  • It’s very important to also stress that this exemption does not apply where buses use the hard shoulder on the motorways, where there are contraflow bus lanes, or where there are bus lanes controlled by dedicated traffic signals.

  • What about cross-border train and bus services?

    There will be no guarantee of cross-border train services operating. Compensation arrangements will be in place for passengers who have pre-purchased tickets for the Enterprise train and Goldline buses to Dublin Airport. Customers who booked online will be emailed with options of a full refund or change of travel date.

    What about schools? If teachers are striking are they closed too?

    Potentially 75,000 could be unable to get to school due to public transport being suspended.

    The Department of Education has advised parents to check with their child's school ahead of the strike to find out if they will be open.

    The Department has said schools "have an obligation to inform parents of any proposed closure".

    What if I need to get to the hospital?

    Unions have confirmed that 'emergency cover' for the Fire and Ambulance Service will be provided on the day of action.

    The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service has said there will be voluntary ambulances used to provide cover with 10 St John ambulances made available.

    The NIAS said striking crews will respond to "potentially life threatening 999 calls but no agreement has been reached regarding urgent but not immediately life threatening calls, which account for approximately 60% of 999 calls".

     Trade Union members have also agreed to provide non-emergency transport for palliative care patients, oncology patients, renal patients and paediatric patients. All other Patient Care Service activity has been cancelled.

    A spokesman said: "As a result of the Trade Union stance on responding to Category A calls only, your ambulance service has been forced to a position whereby Category B and C calls will only be dealt with following long delays and, potentially, when the strike action has been completed at midnight on Friday night. We anticipate that a serious backlog will have accumulated.

    "NIAS recognises that terms such as Category A, Category B and Category C, life-threatening etc. can be confusing to members of the public. With that in mind we will now attempt to put in context the potential impact of the industrial action.

    "Immediately life-threatening 999 calls include chest pain, unconsciousness, choking, severe blood loss among others. These calls will be responded to by those members taking industrial action and account for 40% of 999 calls received."

    Department of Health officials say arrangements have been put in place to ensure that critical services will be maintained.

    Emergency cover will be provided for hospital wards and emergency theatres. It is understood Northern Ireland Ambulance Service managers will also provide cover, taking 999 calls.

    The Royal College of Nurses and Royal College of Midwives voted not to go on strike.

    A spokesperson from the Department of Health said: "For the duration of the industrial action cover will be provided for emergency services and activities, procedures and appointments."

    A spokeswoman for the Health Board said: "Where outpatient appointments are cancelled by trusts, every effort will be made to reschedule these into the next available slot, and this should be within six weeks. Trusts will be informing patients directly if their appointment is to be rescheduled."

    Further reading:

    Public sector strike: Fears for patients as ambulance staff vote to walk out Unions refuse to reveal how many workers voted for strike action that'll bring Northern Ireland to its knees Public sector strike: Policeto suspend enforcement of Belfast bus lanes to stop road chaos Public sector strike to paralyse transport system and close schools across Northern Ireland

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