UNISON Northern Ireland

UNISON Press Release

Today (10th January) UNISON members working across the health and social services system are continuing their strike action over the lack of pay parity with NHS workers in Scotland, England and Wales and on safe staffing levels. 

Last night the Secretary of State and Tánaiste announced a draft deal to restore the devolved institutions at Stormont. Commenting on these developments, UNISON Regional Secretary Patricia McKeown said:

“As UNISON members enter the third month of industrial action across the entire health service, there may be some hope of resolution but we are not there yet.

Since November 2019 the courageous action of UNISON members has put the health service back at the top of the political agenda, a position from which it was relegated 10 years ago.

On 17th December 2019 the action of our members achieved something remarkable which had not happened during the 3 years of our suspended Government.  Following pressure from us, the leaders of all five main political parties jointly signed a statement calling on the Secretary of State to resolve the pay and staffing dispute independently of the talks to restore the Executive.

As health workers take strike action again today, it is painful to hear the Secretary of State confirm publicly that the money to restore parity and rebuild the service is now on the table but will be removed if there is no political agreement.  This is a cynical abuse of the sacrifice made by the many thousands of UNISON members over the past 3 months and the hardship endured by patients and health workers alike for many years.

We have repeatedly stated that using our members industrial action, the horrendous waiting times facing patients and the absence of key health and social services to secure political momentum is an abuse of the human rights of the people of Northern Ireland, patients and workers alike.

To use the distress of the people in Northern Ireland to secure wider political aims is something we will robustly challenge.

Our industrial action continues. We await further developments today at Stormont.  However, should the political process fail, we will pursue Julian Smith to act in the public interest, make the resources available and instruct the Department of Health to restore pay parity.  If the money is there, it should be released without delay.  There should be no more games, a point UNISON members will be making outside the Department of Health this morning from 10am.”

All UNISON members across the entire health and social services system will today continue industrial action short of strike.

Today the following groups of UNISON members will take strike action:

  • All UNISON members at Ulster Hospital.  Picket from 8am.
  • All UNISON members in Western HSC Trust.  Pickets at Altnagelvin Hospital and South West Acute Hospital from 10am.
  • Belfast HSC Trust nursing staff.  Pickets at Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast City Hospital, Mater Hospital, Musgrave Park Hospital from 8am.

UNISON members will also be staging a demonstration at the Department of Health, Castle Buildings at 10am, calling on the Secretary of State, Permanent Secretary, and Head of the Civil Service to act now and restore pay parity.