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"It has been more than a week since an offer to NHS health workers in England, and health workers here in Northern Ireland are feeling they remain last in line.

At a meeting to prepare for 2 days' strike action scheduled for March 31st and April 3rd, UNISON's lay leaders across the health service here pledged to continue our fight for fair pay.

The joint Northern Ireland Trade Union group in Health have agreed the following update regarding the recent pay offer made to NHS England Trade Unions.

A revised offer was made to Staff Council Trade Unions by the Secretary of State for Health, Steve Barclay last week. This was for England only however assurances were given to NHS Staff Council TU side that this offer would be funded by new money and as such Barnett consequentials would follow for the Devolved Administrations (DAs).

Following the announcement of a pay offer to NHS staff in England UNISON's Health Committee in Northern Ireland is now asking the question when will a pay offer be made to health staff here? 

Meeting today Thursday March 16th in emergency session, UNISON's Industrial Action planning team is asking if new money, promised by the UK Treasury, will be ring fenced for health staff pay.   

Anne Speed, Head of Bargaining and Representation at UNISON Northern Ireland said after the meeting: 

A large number of claims were lodged some time ago with the Industrial Tribunal on behalf of UNISON members by our solicitors, Thompsons’ NI,  against 5 Health Trusts on rates of pay for staff undertaking sleep-in shifts in residential facilities.

As the trade union side of the NHS staff council prepare to meet Steve Barclay Secretary of State for UK Health and Social care, UNISON members in Northern are planning 2 days of strike action on March 31st and April 3rd.  UNISON members are currently on a month long schedule of action short of strike which may be extended into May.

Commenting on the invitation received today (Thursday) from the government for health unions to attend formal pay talks, chair of the union group on the NHS staff council and UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: 

“Health unions will need to clarify the basis upon which talks can get underway through the NHS staff council.  

“This includes understanding the status of the unilateral talks that have taken place with the Royal College of Nursing.” 

Attempting a deal with just one solves nothing.

The government’s failure to hold pay talks with every organisation representing striking NHS workers in England is unacceptable, ill-considered, and has potentially perilous consequences, health unions warn today (Monday). 

The chair and secretary of the union side of the NHS staff council have written to Steve Barclay on behalf of health unions, raising concerns about the government’s handling of the pay dispute. 

Nurses belonging to the union Unison staged another 24-hour walkout today, as part of the UK-wide ongoing dispute over pay.

For the third time in recent months, health and care staff joined picket lines across Northern Ireland to protest the current pay deal from Westminster and to advocate for patient safety.

District nurse Nicola Bell, who was on a picket line at Shankill Road in Belfast, told Nursing Times that she was striking once again because nursing was “becoming unsafe” due to staff shortages.

As the NHS dispute over pay and staffing widens across most parts of England in a significant escalation there will be a third day of strike action in Northern Ireland. 

Thousands of UNISON members in the six Health Trust arm’s length bodies will withdraw their labour. This includes staff in the Ambulance service where UNISON represents more than 850 workers.  Arrangements to provide emergency cover are under discussion. 

UNISON members in the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service have welcomed the decision by Unite union to move their strike day to February 21st.

Alastair Long UNISON Ambulance Branch Secretary said:

As hundreds of our members in the ambulance service prepare to take action next Tuesday, we agree that working together makes us stronger.

This will be the 3rd time UNISON members in the Northern Ireland health service have stood up and stood out for the NHS and for our need for a decent pay rise.