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Unison healthcare workers begin strikes in Northern Ireland

In a week that sees lecturers take to the picket lines in the UCU strikes, Unison in Northern Ireland have also begun strikes to demand better pay and staffing in the healthcare sector.
 

Members of Unison – NI’s largest health workers’ union – have gone on strike over pay and staffing levels. The first phase of the strike began on Monday 25th November and is due to end on 18th December, with the second phase running until March 2020.

Northern Ireland Civil Service has said it is with “deep regret” that health workers are proceeding with industrial action.

Under Agenda for Change, which sets pay grades across the UK, health and social care workers in Northern Ireland are the lowest paid.

This has been as a result of a failure of devolved government in Northern Ireland to implement pay awards received in England, Scotland and Wales over many years.

Department of Health Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly said the department "did everything in its power to prevent industrial action", including a pay offer which would add 2.1% to the wage bill for Agenda for Change staff.

"Intensive contingency planning is being undertaken to mitigate the impact of industrial action on patients and other service users," he said.

However, despite these contingency plans, Richard Pengelly has acknowledged there will be an impact on patients.

The head of the civil service David Sterling added that he was "very aware of the deep frustrations in public sector workforces" but said there are "no easy fixes.”

Those protesting will be sterile service workers across major hospitals in NI, support workers in Ulster Hospital and Lagan Valley Hospital, workers in the hospital and social services transport sector, and portering services in Ulster Hospital.

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