Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Union leader's regret after saying 'people die every day' when asked if health strike worth deaths

Unite's Kevin McAdam
Unite's Kevin McAdam

By David O'Dornan

A union leader has said he regrets making a comment that "people die every day" when asked whether it will be worth it if someone dies during a health worker strike.

Kevin McAdam from Unite the Union said "I do absolutely" when Sunday Life asked him yesterday whether he regretted his remark - but stopped short of apologising.

He said: "I certainly regret the way it came across or may have come across. What I was trying to say was in society this happens, life and death occurs every day and the health service will go on every day, but not everything that will happen on a strike day can be attributed to the industrial action."

Earlier in the week Dr Michael McBride, NI's chief medical officer, warned that there is a "real risk" of unintended consequences if industrial action continues.

Mr McAdam was asked on the BBC by radio host Stephen Nolan: "What if someone dies over this, will it be worth it?"

He replied: "People die every day, let's not over-egg this. The health service runs, life runs, deaths happen.

"There is no intent from anybody in the health service, workers, trade unions for anyone to suffer in any way over this bar the management and the administration systems. No one should be coming to any harm and it is not our intention to do that."

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But Mr McAdam also said there would be no intention of calling off strikes which management is saying will put patients at harm.

He said: "It is our job to contemplate calling off strikes. Put us an offer, talk to us, don't bring us into a room like happened last week and offer us less than they had before.

"And don't come back to the table now with, 'Oh, there is what we offered you before so you should be grateful for that now.' You know how much this cost, you have known since April past, in fact the year before and you should have budgeted for it."

Industrial action by health workers in Northern Ireland is continuing over pay and staffing levels (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Industrial action by health workers in Northern Ireland is continuing over pay and staffing levels (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The Health and Social Care Board warned patients there could be further cancellations of appointments and services from tomorrow.

Action will be continuing after health workers rejected a new pay offer which the unions involved said remained "insufficient".

Richard Pengelly, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health, said he was desperately disappointed the offer, which involved an extra £28m, was turned down.

The Health and Social Care Board said further action is planned by Unison, with the Royal College of Nursing also planning industrial action short of a strike from December 10-11.

It added all health organisations would "continue to work closely together to mitigate the effects of any disruption from industrial action with a strong focus on public safety".

The Belfast Trust said all its services would operate as normal but they have also had to cancel 900 routine outpatient appointments in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast City Hospital and the School of Dentistry planned for tomorrow.

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