Blog: An electric atmosphere at Northern Ireland strikes

‘My message to essential workers in Northern Ireland is that UNISON is 100% behind them all, and that we’re in it for the long haul’

Christina McAnea speaking at a rally at Belfast City Hall on the third day of UNISON strikes in the NHS in Northern Ireland

I arrived in Belfast last night, ready to spend today with striking health and care workers. After radio interviews with BBC Radio Ulster and Foyle, I arrived to a packed picket line.

Together, we marched from the Royal Victoria Hospital, joining other marchers on the way to a rally at Belfast City Hall. The atmosphere was electric. An energy driven by their determination to put an end to poverty pay and the silence from politicians in power.

Northern Ireland’s healthcare workers have taken a difficult decision to go on strike. So it’s no surprise they’re ready to be loud about the bold steps they’re taking.

From the stage at the rally, I looked out over the sea of purple and green UNISON flags and the colours of other unions. I could see the faces of the essential workers who have been treated by governments as dispensable, unimportant and as a nuisance.

My message to them was that UNISON is 100% behind them all, and that we’re in it for the long haul. The Prime Minister, the chancellor and the health secretary have gone into hiding. But they can’t stay there forever.

They must face the reality that they’re letting down millions of workers from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. That their political choices have caused hardship to workers and families, and are driving our public services into the ground.

UNISON will keep up the pressure on the Westminster government. Until they take responsibility, get round the negotiating table and deliver fair pay for our amazing members, we will remain resolute, organised and loud!