Government inaction means NI health strikes continue

Thousands of health workers Northern Ireland will walk out on Friday 31 March and 3 April after talks failed to progress dispute

Christina McAnea speaks to a rally of health workers in NI

Health strikes in Northern Ireland continue today and next week, after a meeting on Monday between trade unions and local health leadership provided no progress in the dispute.

UNISON announced that planned 24-hour strikes in Northern Ireland, involving thousands of health workers, will go ahead today, 31 March, and also on 3 April. This came after unions were informed that local health leadership did not have any money with which to make an increased pay offer.

It comes as a direct result of the Department of Health failing to extend the new NHS pay offer made in England and Wales, earlier in March, to Northern Ireland. That offer included an extra lump sum for 2022/23 and a new offer of a 5% increase for 2023/24.

An increased offer would have allowed unions to suspend the strikes and begin consultation with their members. However, neither the secretary of state nor any officials from the Northern Ireland office attended the meeting with unions.

UNISON Northern Ireland head of bargaining Anne Speed said: “We will not be bounced from pillar to post. Last night we were told we must wait until the outcome of the pay consultation in England before we know whether the health budget in Northern Ireland will be drip fed any money.

“Either that or, alternatively, we must wait until the secretary of state makes up his mind on the delivery date for the Northern Ireland budget.”

UNISON’s regional secretary for Northern Ireland, Patricia McKeown added: “UK ministers should know by now that workers in Northern Ireland will not tolerate being left behind. We proved it in the past and we will prove it again.

“The secretary of state holds the responsibility to sort this problem now, he cannot sit on the fence. He cannot blame anyone else. It is his government that has failed to make money available for health workers in Northern Ireland.”