UNISON Northern Ireland


UNISON welcomes today’s announcement by the Minister of Health, Robin Swann MLA, where he has indicated he intends to establish a Social Care Fair Work Forum to include HSC bodies, trade unions and employers. Commenting on the Minister’s announcement, UNISON Regional Secretary Patricia McKeown said: 

‘‘The Minister has now publicly committed to establish a Forum bringing together the HSC bodies that commission social care services, employers and unions. This is a very welcome move that follows from representations UNISON has made and our longstanding campaigns on behalf of the workforce.  

Whilst we await further details on how the Forum will operate, we would call for it to immediately focus on improving pay and terms and conditions for workers across social care as its first order of business. The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated once again how vital these workers are, but also highlighted how they continue to be exploited, undervalued and underpaid. This Forum must act swiftly to change that.  

UNISON stands ready to work with the Minister and those employers who are committed to positive change for the workforce through this Forum. If we are to have a social care system that treats our older and vulnerable citizens with dignity and respect and protects their rights, a well-paid, highly-trained and stable workforce is essential. 

We must end the ‘race to the bottom’ in social care, where providers win contracts based on the lowest price. Investing in better pay, terms and conditions and training will improve standards of care. It will also improve the lives and health outcomes of the workers’ themselves, who are amongst the lowest paid in Northern Ireland. 

Our members have made huge sacrifices during the pandemic in order to care for the most vulnerable and keep the public safe. This Forum must ensure that they are properly recognised for their contribution now and in the future through decent pay and terms and conditions. 

We look forward to engaging further with the Minister on the development of the Forum and contributing to its programme of work.’’