More than 26,000 healthcare workers in Northern Ireland went on strike yesterday to protest against budget cuts in the sector and potential job losses. They will likely join millions on strike on 30th November.
Patricia McKeown, UNISON general secretary (Northern Ireland) said today, “It is over 30 years since strike action took place simultaneously across our integrated health and social care system.” With over 100 picket lines right across Northern Ireland, UNISON members were out on strike today, Wednesday, October 5th, protesting against budget cuts and loss of jobs.
Health Services in Northern Ireland have been the subject of savage cuts over the last few years with as many as 2,000 jobs already lost prior to the upcoming budget cuts.
Earlier this year Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) officials said they needed a minimum of £5.4bn between now and 2015 to ensure the efficient running of the health and social care services, but the Department of Finance is putting forward around £4.6bn, a shortfall of £800m. UNISON is saying that the actual shortfall is closer to 2.3 billion pounds or almost 600 million pounds a year. This will see as many as 4,000 front line staff made redundant.
The cuts have also meant the closure of accident and emergency services in outlying areas and now the City Hospital in Belfast. UNISON officials pointed out that barring staff’s good nature, 80 per cent of all nursing staff are working unpaid overtime to ensure standards of patient care are kept up, the situation in the NHS would be close to critical.
The arguments put forward by politicians in Stormont are the same as those put forward by Cameron and Clegg – there is no money – yet 123 billion pounds of unpaid and avoided taxes by big corporations and the rich, if collected would easily cover the funds required to provide for decent healthcare.
Over the next month almost all of the public sector unions in Northern Ireland will be balloting for strike action to oppose changes in pensions and budget cutbacks. The likely date is, as in the rest of the UK, 30th November.
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