UNISON says declaring nationwide major incident was “provocative”

Northern Ireland ambulanceUNISON has accused Northern Ireland ambulance bosses of strike-breaking after they declared a major incident just hours before staff were due to join fellow NHS workers on strike.

Tens of thousands of public sector workers in Northern Ireland took action on Friday over cuts to public services.

UNISON members employed by the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service were due to join them but two hours before the strike was set to start, bosses declared a major incident, although the union says it is uncertain what the incident was.

UNISON Northern Ireland regional secretary Patrica McKown said: “The decision to declare a major incident across the whole of Northern Ireland two hours in advance of strike action is provocative.

“It is not a ‘smart’ move if that was the intention. Instead it is likely to provoke further action. There are no indications that such a major incident exists.

“However, at 1am a non-emergency crew was instructed to attend the Mater Hospital to provide non-emergency transport. The crew was threatened with disciplinary action if they did not respond.

“This is strike breaking and intimidation. The NIAS management has now issued an apology to us and our members and has withdrawn the non-emergency services.”

She warned: “Ambulance staff have the right to strike and we will support our members who chose to exercise their right. By declaring a major incident NIAS has effectively binned the agreements reached earlier.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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