Health workers to ‘fight for pay and justice’ as part of industrial strike

Health workers to ‘fight for pay and justice’ as part of industrial strike

27 November 2019

HEALTH workers will be manning picket lines outside the Downe and Downshire hospitals next Friday as part of 

province-wide industrial action to “fight for justice on both pay and staffing levels”.

Members of Unison will be on strike on December 6 with services likely to be impacted including some hospital and social care transport, portering and other patient support services including domestic, catering and laundry.

The trade union’s industrial action comes after the Royal College of Nursing confirmed that two weeks of industrial action across health and social care services in a dispute over pay will begin on December 3 with a one-day strike taking place 15 days later.

Unison says that most staff who choose to work in the health service do so to help others not for the pay or working hours.

“The staff feel as frustrated and angry as the public about the long waiting lists for outpatient appointments and surgery, the long waiting times for treatment or admission in the emergency departments and the shortage of staff,” said a trade union spokeswoman.

“In addition, staff have seen their pay fall behind their counterparts in the rest of the UK because of our devolved government. The UK is the fifth richest country in the world yet at our last pay rise the domestics, porters and catering staff had to be uplifted to the national minimum wage.”

Unison said it has consistently sought pay parity for health workers in Northern Ireland who are on lower pay than their counterparts in England, Scotland and Wales. The trade union says this is unfair and causing a staffing crisis within the health service. 

In the Down area, health staff are working to rule for three weeks as of Monday of this week as part of widespread industrial action across the entire health and social services system. 

“This includes action short of strike by nursing, ambulance, support services, admin, clerical, social services and 

social care, professional and technical and health agencies,” said the spokeswoman.

“This action is working to rule and includes refusing to have breaks interrupted, working strictly to health and safety protocols and withdrawal from all trade union/management/Department of Health engagement, except regional meetings on dispute resolution and refusing to cover the work of others taking action.”

The spokeswoman confirmed that staff in Downpatrick will take strike action at some part of the day next Friday with the largest group coming out between 2pm and 5pm.

Unison says that patient safety has been a primary consideration in planning the industrial action.

“There will be some disruption to the public, but the disruption is aimed at those who run the health service,” said the spokeswoman. 

“Our members are sending a clear message that enough is enough. We are taking targeted action involving different groups of workers at different times.

“We welcome the support the public is showing for workers who are taking a stand because they can no longer accept the crisis in our hospitals and in our communities. Those who run the health service should be held to account for the failure to address these longstanding problems.”

A spokesperson for the Health and Social Care System (HSC) said it had been notified by Unison of industrial action which will include targeted strikes with the type of industrial action varying between health trusts  and will take place in different areas at different times. 

“We apologise to all those patients and family members who may be affected. Trusts are working hard, where possible, to contact any patients and service users who may be impacted by any disruption to services or cancellations,” the spokesperson continued.

“All HSC organisations will continue to work closely together to mitigate the effects of any disruption.