FERMANAGH’S nurses continued their strike action last Thursday to demand for better pay and working conditions.
The one-day dispute took place across the county and the rest of the North with nursing staff protesting for a wage. A pay rise had been offered but unions insist the offer was effectively a pay cut as it did not match the current rate of inflation.
Jill Weir, who is Joint Branch Secretary of the Fermanagh & Omagh branch of Unison, stated that a proper pay rise is what her members deserve given that they have effectively been taking a pay cut for the past decade.
She said: “The increase offered was not enough given the current cost of living crisis, rising fuel prices and the level of inflation which the proposed increase doesn’t even meet.
“On the surface, yes a pay rise was offered. But when you look behind that and put it up against the rate of inflation, this ‘rise’ is effectively a pay-cut.
“And it has consistently been a pay cut ever since the Conservative government came into power.
“We have very rarely received a pay rise in line with inflation. For many years, the government capped public sector pay.”
Weir also stated that given the government were telling the nation to clap for nurses during the height of the Covid pandemic, the least they could do is not take them for granted regarding pay.
She added: “Three years ago, the government was urging everybody to give us a clap for our efforts during the pandemic.
“But as everyone knows, the clapping of hands doesn’t put food on the table, a roof over your head and clothes on your back.
“When you think [Prime Minister] Rishi Sunak was the person with the money during the Covid pandemic [as Chancellor of the Exchequer] and asking everyone to clap the nurses and saying what a good job they were doing, it is very disappointing to see the current attitude of the government towards nurses at the moment.
“They’re not willing to talk to any of the unions involved about pay. While the public were genuinely heartfelt in clapping for the nurses, it seems the powers that be were taking us for granted.”
She said: “The problem is that there is a high turnover of staff – not just nurse, but porters, ambulance drivers and social workers. A lot of that is, unfortunately, down to pay.
“When you’re not paid your value, then the staff are leaving. This in turn puts pressure on the staff that are remaining. This is not just about pay. It’s also about staffing and safe staffing at that.
“Then you have the other issue of a high-cost agency spend. We can have a Trust-employed nurse on a ward working alongside an agency nurse with the latter getting up to twice as much money. So you have nurses leaving to go to agencies.
“People are phoning me saying they’ve been offered jobs, only for them to be pulled or have been kept waiting for months and months before being told that they can start.
“That’s not good enough when you have a staffing crisis.
“Please believe me when I say that anybody in health and social care does not want to be on strike.”
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