UNISON Northern Ireland


Today (12th November 2020) the NI Executive will continue to meet to consider whether restrictions it has put in place to stop the spread of Covid-19 should be continued. Commenting on the Executive’s forthcoming decision, UNSON Regional Secretary Patricia McKeown said:
‘‘It is shocking that the NI Executive is deadlocked as the number of cases of Covid-19 rise. Thousands of health workers are Covid positive or self-isolating. Some are very sick and are on Covid wards or in ICU. Tragically some have already lost their lives.

UNISON is the single largest union representing workers right across our health and social care system. We are speaking out publicly demanding protection for them and the general public.

They are growing increasingly frustrated by the failure of our political leaders to work together and agree to support them and protect our health service.

The first duty of any Government is to protect lives and protect public health. The Executive must recognise this and make the decisions required in line with the public health advice it is receiving. It cannot set aside the fundamental human right to life.

There is no place in a public health emergency for partisan politics. Health and social care workers and the wider public need clear and unified action. We need look no further than the United States’ experience of Covid-19 to see how taking politically partisan views on the pandemic is disastrous in protecting the public and health workers.

UNISON knows all too well the devastating impact that unemployment and poverty can have on people’s health. It is why we have for years been campaigning against poverty pay in our social care services and for the Executive to deliver an Anti-Poverty Strategy based on objective need. It is why during the course of the pandemic we have been calling for proper financial supports for those who need to self-isolate and for workers to have continued access to a furlough scheme that protects jobs and guarantees all of their pay. But we fail to see how the economy can truly be protected if the virus spreads beyond control.

We do not doubt that these are hard decisions. But all parties in the Executive must ask themselves how they expect an already overstretched health service to respond to all the needs of society over the coming weeks if restrictions are eased. If restrictions are eased too soon and the virus spreads again out of control, there will be more infections, more hospital admissions, more outbreaks in care homes, and more health and social care workers having to self-isolate. If our health service is overwhelmed the public will hold our politicians to account.’’