UNISON Northern Ireland

There will be no industrial peace without political action to restore devolution.

Speaking today after a meeting of trade unions from all sectors of our economy, ICTU Assistant General Secretary Gerry Murphy said:

“Every single day brings the announcement of another salami slice of misery from government departments or a public body for the people of Northern Ireland.

“Yesterday, the Permanent Secretary in the Department of Health announced that NI health workers would not receive the below inflation pay award offered to their exact equivalents in England. He described his dilemma as ‘an impossible position of being asked to fulfil conflicting responsibilities’.

“In addition, efforts to relieve the worst NHS waiting lists anywhere in the UK are seemingly unaffordable. Neither can we afford, we are told, provision for 920 children with Special Educational Needs.

“These are mean-spirited punishments of taxpayers and public servants enacted to cover the political failures of decision makers in Westminster after Brexit. Their unrealistic promises cannot disguise the failures of government strategy since the referendum in 2016.

“Northern Ireland has held two elections in the past year, and a clear majority of voters have endorsed those who can accept compromise. A majority of people here desire to see a return to locally accountable politicians making decisions that affect their everyday lives.    

“In the absence of locally accountable political structures at Stormont, it is no surprise that working people across all sectors are exercising the democracy of what used to be called ‘The Fourth Estate’. Working people have been left with no option but to leverage their labour and withdraw it when necessary.

“Unless NI, Secretary of State, Chris Heaton-Harris takes decisive action to restore the NI Executive and Assembly beyond random punishments of the weak and vulnerable, then trade unionists will do what any decent person would do when faced with a bully – confront them and engage them with arguments for justice and industrial action in the cause of fairness and decency.”