THERE have been warnings of possible further health strikes to come here, despite talks with the Secretary of State, with local health workers not entitled to the same pay deal offered to their colleagues in England.
Health workers in the North have been taking part in industrial action for the past four months, just as their counterparts across the Irish Sea have. This has involved four full days of strikes, including at the SWAH.
Earlier this month the Department of Health in Belfast warned that not only was it not in a position to offer local NHS workers a pay rise, but that we were also facing severe health cuts due to the lack of a Stormont budget.
“As things stand, the Department is not in a position make a formal pay offer,” said a Department spokesman.
“This reflects the current absence of a budget for 2023/24 and the expectation of a significant financial shortfall.
“We are potentially facing high impact cuts on health and social care services that are already under considerable pressure.”
Strike action planned for this month was, however, called off by UNISON after Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris agreed to hold talks instead. Unison NI secretary, Patricia McKeown, said this showed the workers “finally got the message through to those in power.”
“Health workers across Northern Ireland will not be left behind,” she said, adding that the engagement “must be real” or “strike action will escalate.”
Local Cllr Debbie Coyle, who works at the SWAH, has added her voice to the support for the health workers, calling for them to be given the fair pay and safe conditions they are entitled to.
“They are stretched to the limit and burnt out from working long hours,” she said. “Chronic understaffing and extra pressure put on already stretched workers is unsafe and is putting both patients and staff at risk.
“In the absence of a functioning Executive, it is the British government’s responsibility to deliver a fair deal for health and social care workers.
“It is unfair, unjust and totally unacceptable that the pay offer made to NHS staff in England has not been extended to us as health and social care workers in the North.”
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