Belfast Telegraph

Summit called ahead of NHS strike

The Health Secretary has called unions to a meeting ahead of the latest strike planned by NHS workers in their bitter row with the Government over pay.

Sources told the Press Association that officials from several unions had been invited to the talks tomorrow with Jeremy Hunt.

The surprise move comes just over a week before a planned walkout by NHS workers in England and Northern Ireland in protest at the coalition's refusal to accept a recommended 1% pay rise for all staff.

Members of Unison, Unite and the GMB in hospitals in England will walk out for 12 hours between 9am and 9pm on January 29, followed by a work to rule until February 24.

Midwives and radiographers are also due to take action in England, while industrial action will also be held in Northern Ireland.

Union officials were contacted today by the Health Department.

Despite the development, hopes of resolving the dispute are not high because Mr Hunt could simply call for the strike to be called off because of the crisis which has emerged in recent weeks at hospital accident and emergency departments.

Christina McAnea, Unison's head of health, said: "We have been asking for a meeting with the secretary of state since the dispute began.

"We hope the meeting will give us an opportunity to have serious discussions on how to resolve pay and staffing issues."

Members of several health unions went on strike last year, many for the first time in their career.

Unions are protesting over the Government's decision to reject a 1% pay rise for NHS staff which was recommended by the independent Pay Review Body last year.

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