Healthcare workers in Northern Ireland vote for strike action which could happen before Christmas

Healthcare workers in Northern Ireland have voted for strike action

The Unison union has called for an inflation-busting pay rise for nurses in Norther Ireland as healthcare workers at a second voted to strike over pay.

GMB members working as nurses, ambulance workers, hospital porters, cleaners and caterers, clerical staff, technicians, care workers, social workers and transport workers voted to walk out by a margin of 86%.

The union will now meet with members to discuss industrial action which could take place before Christmas.

On Monday former Health Minister Robin Swann called on the Secretary of State to match the pay award which nurses in other parts of the UK have already received.

GMB’s Jim Donley said: “This vote for strike action shows the NHS workforce across Northern Ireland are desperate.

“They’ve faced years of real terms pay cuts, a deadly pandemic and now a crushing cost of living crisis. They're being pushed to the limit.

“But more than pay - this is as much about patient safety. A third of GMB ambulance workers think delays they’ve been involved with have led to the death of a patient.

“The NHS in Northern Ireland is on life support - the Westminster Government needs to provide urgent extra funding or the service as we know it will cease to exist.”

The Unison union have written a letter to NI Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris calling on him to put pressure on the Prime Minister to ensure equal pay for nurses with their colleagues in England.

'The absence of a mechanism to uplift pay to health workers in Northern Ireland is a matter of serious concern for the thousands of staff we represent in Northern Ireland," Unison Head of Bargaining and Representation said in the letter.

'Together with all health unions in Northern Ireland, as the lead trade union we have been attempting to find a way forward.

'At this very moment more than 35 000 workers are being balloted on industrial action. One union has already declared a vote for strike. This scenario has unfolded as our unions across the UK are also balloting. They are doing so to secure additionality to the imposition of the Pay Review Body recommendation.

'All health trade unions within the UK believe an inflation-busting pay rise is necessary to protect struggling working families against the cost of living crisis. Health workers in Northern Ireland are now voting without having received this minimum payment. Pay parity with NHS England restored after a Northern Ireland - wide strike in 2019/2020 and endorsed by the NI Executive has once again been ended .Our health workers are angry and feel disenfranchised and this will no doubt be reflected in their response in the ballots underway.

'Given your intention to set a course over the coming weeks we ask you to bring your influence to bear on the Prime Minister to allow scope for and fund further UK-wide uplifts in 2022 to deliver protection against inflation. This would also provide scope for you to address the consequent omission of the PRB recommendation here in Northern Ireland, and ensure that a returned devolved Northern Ireland Executive has discretion to additionally resource pay improvement for 2022'.

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