UNISON Northern Ireland

NHS workers in Northern Ireland call on government to show its appreciation for them, says UNISON

Health staff in UNISON across Northern Ireland  – including nurses, paramedics, cleaners, domestics and porters – are beginning a round of meetings with MPS from all parties with representation at Westminster urging the UK government to give an early, significant pay rise of at least £2,000 to every worker in the NHS. 

Staff in UNISON branches based in NHS hospitals, ambulance stations and clinics will be using social media and taking part in socially distanced events to press home the message to the Northern Ireland MPs that health workers deserve much more than applause for their efforts during the pandemic. 

Health workers know the public backs an early NHS pay rise, but now want to see the government show its appreciation for staff by bringing forward the pay rise due in April. 

UNISON’s pay claim – delivered to Downing Street recently – would see every NHS employee receive an increase of at least £2,000 by the end of the year. 

This early wage increase – equivalent to around £1 an hour extra for all staff – could give ailing local economies a much-needed boost as workers spend the extra money in their pockets on the high street, says UNISON.  

With the  current surge  rates of infection and huge  pressures on struggling and weary staff UNISON believes now is the perfect time for the UK government to show the high regard in which  they say they hold NHS staff.  

UNISON Northern Ireland Regional Organisers Nuala Conlon and Marianne Buick  said: “Infection rates are rising in care homes and out in the wider community, and hospital admissions continue to stretch resources. 

“That’s why now would be the perfect time for the  UK Prime Minister and Chancellor to show they can do more than clap for NHS staff, and demonstrate their appreciation in a much more practical way.  

 “Investing in the NHS and its incredible staff is a must for the UK government. It would help the health service tackle the mounting staff shortages that were already causing huge problems even before the virus hit.  

“An early pay rise would also be the best way of saying a heartfelt thank you to every single member of the whole  NHS team.” 

Notes to Editors 

Our front line champions in Northern Ireland.

Delivering a baby in a lunchbreak is a task midwives sometimes have to handle. But for ward assistant Colette McAlinden, her new arrival came during the pandemic – and in the hospital car park. She says: ‘I was sat in the car having a break from the heat of the wards and reading a book. I heard screaming and got out, worried someone was being murdered. A man ran over waving his arms and yelling ‘baby, baby!’. I ran after him, he stopped at a van and in the back and was a woman in labour.’ Guided by a 999 operator, Colette heard the baby cry then the paramedics took over. She then dashed back to the ward, carried on clearing away patients’ trays from lunch and went home. She adds: ‘I didn’t realise I was covered in blood. My supervisor asked, ‘Colette, what have you done!’.’ This NHS worker is a typical example of devotion to the jobs they love. Often, she will come in at weekends and on her days off to fill staffing gaps. Her work is very physical such as cleaning and serving meals. And it must be carried out wearing full PPE. During the extreme hot spell in March, she was on a ward with no fans or open windows.  

She says: ‘Sometimes my lips cracked with thirst. The workload increased. It was hectic, working in extreme heat. But we had to put that all aside because the patients and their family are the priority. My family were worried about me working during the pandemic. I’ve eight grandchildren, so we had to keep our distance which was tough. The people I work with in the hospital are amazing – I couldn’t ask for better.’