NewsPublic Sector Strike Causes Major Disruption in Northern Ireland

Public Sector Strike Causes Major Disruption in Northern Ireland

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A major strike involving nurses, midwives, and healthcare workers is set to create unprecedented disruption, warns the Department of Health in Northern Ireland. Tens of thousands of public sector employees, including teachers, civil servants, and bus and train drivers, are poised to walk out on Thursday, 18 January, protesting over pay in what unions are calling the largest strike in the history of Northern Ireland.

The Department of Health expresses extreme concern about the potential impact on services, emphasizing that the health system is already facing sustained and severe pressure. The strike is expected to affect all aspects of health and social care, including hospitals, community care, and ambulances, leading to the complete cessation of some services.

The department urges the public to use services judiciously to ensure that care is available to those in urgent need, while also advising individuals to take sensible precautions to reduce the likelihood of requiring health service treatment on the day of the strike.

The ongoing pay dispute, which has prompted this massive strike, remains a significant point of contention. The government has offered £584 million to address public sector pay issues as part of a financial package exceeding £3.3 billion, contingent upon the return of a Northern Ireland Executive. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak suggests that the dispute could be swiftly resolved if power-sharing were reinstated at Stormont.

The Department of Health acknowledges the deep frustration among health service staff due to the absence of a pay offer for the current year. Under the current 2023/24 health budget, the department has been unable to make a pay offer to health and social care staff, deeming the situation unsustainable and indefensible.

In response to the impending strike, Unison, a union representing numerous health workers, states that it is working collaboratively with the department to mitigate disruption. Conor McCarthy, the union’s regional organizer, emphasizes efforts to minimize disruption and highlights a life and limb policy for cover arrangements, occasionally resorting to a Bank Holiday cover setup.

McCarthy urges the Secretary of State to cease using workers as leverage and address the pay dispute promptly, emphasizing the growing determination and frustration among union members. The call to end the use of health workers as political pawns underscores the need for resolution and fair compensation in the absence of an assembly.

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