Prentis warns of austerity’s risk to peace in Northern Ireland

General secretary takes ‘strong message of support’ to Belfast as latest group of health workers begin ballot for action

“Something is deeply wrong when nurses feel they have no alternative but to call for a strike ballot to protect children from clinical risk,” general secretary Dave Prentis declared when he spoke at UNISON Northern Ireland’s regional council today.

The council met as nurse members in the paediatric department and children’s emergency departments in Antrim Area Hospital started receiving strike ballot papers.

The result of the vote is expected on 5 November.

The members had called for a strike ballot in response to the trust’s proposals for a reorganisation that nurses say will lead to unsafe clinical practice and put children at risk.

The regional council – around 150 members from across Northern Ireland – also discussed further action across all services should the current political talks result in more cuts to the welfare state, the NHS and frontline public services.

UNISON members across the health and education sectors took strike action in March. Since then many have been working to rule to challenge vacancies and job cuts in vital frontline services.

“While austerity has damaged workers and the communities across the UK, there is little doubt that in Northern Ireland it also risks destabilising the Peace Process,” said 
Mr Prentis.

“Brutal cuts to the Northern Ireland block grant have thrown frontline services into crisis.

“Something is deeply wrong when nurses feel they have no alternative but to call for a strike ballot to protect children from clinical risk.

“I am bringing a strong message of support from the whole union to our members in Northern Ireland.”