NURSES in the North have voted to strike over pay with thousands more NHS workers being balloted for strike action this week.
The walkout, expected to start by the end of the year, will involve Royal College of Nursing (RCN) members in hospitals and community teams, but emergency care will still be staffed.
NHS workers in roles such as blood and transplant services are among nearly 10,000 people also being balloted over action that could see them walk off the job as soon as January. This is in addition to thousands of other healthcare workers who have already been balloted, Unite union confirmed.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite members are now fighting for the very existence of the NHS itself. Crushing staff shortages mean patients’ lives are now at risk. Twelve years of senseless cuts have driven workers from our most essential public service.”
Fermanagh and Omagh branch manager at Unison, Jill Weir, said that the other unions were currently balloting their members about the strike and that it looks like “another winter of discontent” ahead.
The Department of Health also acknowledged the outcome of the RCN ballot on industrial action, with GMB members working in the NI health service also voting for industrial action and ballots ongoing at other health unions.
“The Department shares the frustration of NI health care staff at the ongoing absence of a pay award for this year. Due to unprecedented circumstances, we have been unable to progress with national NHS pay body recommendations for 2022/23,” a Department of Health statement said.
“A NI public sector pay policy is not in place for this year and very significant financial pressures are facing this Department and the wider NI public sector. We will liaise with the Northern Ireland Office in relation to our financial position.
“We greatly value our health care staff and very much regret that so many of them believe industrial action is necessary. NI’s health and social care system is planning for a very difficult winter period.”
In the event of strike action proceeding, the Department and HSC Trusts said it will work closely with trade unions to protect critical services as much as possible.
“However, there will inevitably be an impact on patient care, and further impairment of already highly pressurised services,” the Department of Health said.
Rail workers, bus drivers, dock workers and waste collectors are among those who have taken strike action in the past few months over pay claims in the UK.
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