It was an absolute pleasure to be in Northern Ireland earlier this week to meet members and staff.
This is a part of our union that not only has to face all of the challenges that we face elsewhere, but one which must also face barriers that many would struggle to comprehend. Everyone in our union should be proud of the role UNISON in Northern Ireland has played in the quest for peace and stability.
Whilst Northern Ireland isn’t hit by the Trade Union Bill which threatens such damage to other parts of our union, that doesn’t mean they’re free from this government’s attacks. UNISON’s 40,000 members there are facing the toughest time for public services – and public servants – since the 1980s. Cuts to front line services like heath, social care and education are an unavoidable reality.
Likewise, NHS pay is an ongoing issue – both through plans to switch weekly/fortnightly pay to monthly pay and the imposition of a measly 1% pay award. So it was great to hear about how UNISON has been campaigning loudly and effectively to show how members will bit hit by such changes.
Northern Ireland has been transformed in recent years – but for a part of the world that has faced such hardship, the impact of austerity is significant and painful.
With elections coming up in just a few weeks for the Northern Ireland Assembly, I hope that all parties will listen to the voices of UNISON members, and work with us to deliver the better public services we so greatly need.