UNISON announces health strike dates in Northern Ireland

UNISON has today (Wednesday) announced the dates for strikes and industrial action by health and social services staff in Northern Ireland.

Workers represented by the union voted overwhelmingly earlier this month to take action over safe staffing levels and pay parity. Health staff in Northern Ireland are paid less than their colleagues in Britain.

Waiting lists and waiting times have reached crisis levels for patients across Northern Ireland, partly as a result of poor pay and staffing, according to UNISON.

The first phase – from Monday 25 November to Wednesday 18 December – will see UNISON members across the entire health and social services system – including nurses, ambulance staff, clerical workers and social care employees – taking action short of a strike.

In addition, there will be strikes by a number of specific groups of workers at five health and social care trusts in Northern Ireland.

UNISON Northern Ireland regional secretary Patricia McKeown said:“None of the employees involved have taken the decision lightly. They are determined to fight for justice on both pay and staffing levels.

“They are determined to break the cycle of hundreds of millions of pounds haemorrhaging out of the health budget and into the hands of private agencies.

“They want to see the NHS workforce stabilised so it can get on with the serious business of delivering health and social care to the people of Northern Ireland.

“The public is supportive of their campaign for pay justice. Those in charge – the Department of Health, the Health Trust Boards and the Executive teams – must now match the courage and determination of the workforce to save the health service from further crisis.”

Notes to editors:
– Around two thirds of UNISON’s 43,000 members in Northern Ireland work in health and social services.
– Under Agenda for Change, which sets pay grades across the UK, health and social care workers in Northern Ireland are the lowest paid. This has been as a result of a failure of devolved government in Northern Ireland to implement pay awards received in England, Scotland and Wales over many years.
– Earlier this year, 92% of UNISON members who responded to the ballot for industrial action voted in favour of strike action.
– Those taking action short of a strike include staff in the nursing, ambulance service staff, support services staff, administrative, clerical and managerial roles, social services and social care, professional and technical staff and all those working across the various health services agencies. The action will include a refusal to interrupt breaks, working strictly to health and safety protocols, withdrawal from all union/management/Department of Health engagement except regional meetings on dispute resolution and refusing to cover the work of others who are taking action.
– Strike action will be taken by workers in sterile services across major hospitals; hospital and social services transport services across the Belfast and Northern HSC Trusts; support services (including domestic services, portering, catering and laundry) in Ulster Hospital and Lagan Valley Hospital; and portering services in Craigavon Hospital.
– Further specific dates and times of strike action will be announced.

Media contacts:
Patricia McKeown M: 07802 539096
Anne Speed M: 07904 427133
John Patrick Clayton M: 07508 080386
Anthony Barnes M: 07834 864794