UNISON members take industrial action to defend jobs and services

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UNISON members working in health and social care in Northern Ireland are on strike today to defend jobs and services.

The strike began at midnight with the first picket line forming at the Mater Hospital in North Belfast.

Emergency cover with the health trusts and the Ambulance Service has been agreed. The union is protecting patient safety through an agreed protocol.

There will, however, be widespread disruption today as large numbers of elective operations and outpatient clinic appointments are cancelled.

Picket lines formed at all hospitals across Northern Ireland from early morning. The ambulance service is providing emergency cover but day case transport is cancelled.

In social services, transport, day centres and other facilities are affected. In some areas home care workers are taking strike action for the first time ever. Residential homes for older people and children’s’ homes operate as part of our critical cover.

In the education sector, where UNISON is one of a number of unions, some are providing cover for all special needs schools today but protest action is taking place at each to highlight the fact that this is one of hardest hit areas.

Strong support is being received from teachers unions and school principals. Many schools have circulated letters to parents from UNISON which explains the action and urges them to join the campaign against education cuts.

Regional Secretary Patricia McKeown said: “”It’s more than 30 years since strike action took place simultaneously across our integrated health & social care system. Many of the workers taking strike action today were children themselves when the last main strike occurred. For the majority it will be the first time they have ever been on strike.

“This action does not come lightly to any UNISON member. They are sacrificing their pay in difficult times to highlight the impact of cuts on services and jobs.”

The union placed announcements in newspapers yesterday stating: “We sincerely apologise to the Public for any disruption caused.

“The People of Northern Ireland did not cause this financial crisis. Health and education workers did not cause it. Patients, social services clients and school children did not cause it. They should not be the target of the deepest cuts in our history. We are taking one day of action to help save our future.
We are standing up to protect services and jobs. Please stand with us.”


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