Pay freeze health workers warn of huge strike action

THOUSANDS of Fermanagh health sector workers could be taking to picket lines in the new year if something isn’t done to improve their working conditions.
Trade unions representing health workers across the North are currently exploring the option of strike action. Here in the county Unison, which has in the region of 2,000 local members, is preparing a “consultative ballot” on the issue in the coming weeks. The ballot is being held with a view to holding a further ballot on striking.
Unison branch secretary for Fermanagh, Jill Weir, pictured, said workers here were angered by their continued pay freeze, coupled with ever increasing work loads, and may feel such action is necessary.
“I know at the minute there is a lot of anger among our members because they see what other countries have got,” she said, referring to the lifting of the NHS pay freeze in Scotland and England, where workers got a three percent pay rise. “We’re still sitting this year with nothing,” she added. “It’s the usual thing, no minister will sign it off. We do believe someone should be able to sign it off.”
Ms Weir said the continued pay freeze was hampering recruitment and retention of staff, thus increasing the work load for remaining staff. For example, graduates are choosing to stay in Britain where the wages are higher while some experienced staff are leaving for the private sector.
“People use the comparison of stacking shelves in Lidl, where they don’t have the pressure,” she said. “The work is hard and the work is busy in the hospital at the end of the day, so they need to be paid accordingly.
“They deserve their pay rise. Your pay is your reward for what you do, so they need to be seeing they are appreciated.”
Cllr Raymond Farrell said a three percent pay increase “plus a few percent more” would be “only righ” due to the conditions in which they’re working, with an increase in hospital attendences not being matched by a similar increase in staff.
“People enter health care because it’s a vocation, but it also has to be financially viable,” he said. “When you have staff who feel they have to leave the service and go and work in retail, that to me is an absolute waste.”

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