DoH Concerned At Pending Industrial Action

Significantly reduced health service coming on 18 January says Department of Health

Significantly reduced health service coming on 18 January says Department of Health

The Department of Health is extremely concerned about the potential impact of planned industrial action on Thursday 18 January. 

However, trade unions are adamant that the government and the Secretary of State in particular, can do more to improve the situation. There is a huge gulf between public sector workers in education and health.

A spokesperson for the Department said: “While every effort will be made to mitigate the impact on the public, there will be widespread disruption to all aspects of health and social care services.

“This is expected to impact across a wide range of areas including planned and unplanned (urgent/emergency) hospital services, community services such as day centres, district nursing and domiciliary care as well as ambulance cover.

“Trusts will work with trade union representatives to seek to protect emergency care.

“We nevertheless believe that disruption to services will be on a scale not experienced with previous industrial action.

“The strike action will be taking place at a time when services are already under sustained and very severe pressure.

Pictured outside the Downshire Estate in Downpatrick, Sonia Graham, right, Joint Branch Unison for NI Secretary with fellow Unison members on the two-day strike for better pay and conditions. (Photo by Jim Masson/ Down News).) September 2023.

“Staffing shortfalls on Thursday 18th January are expected to be further made worse by industrial action in education and public transport.

“We would therefore ask the public to be very conscious of the fact that a significantly reduced health service will be in place on 18 January.

“This would mean not just delays over and above existing levels but some services not being available at all.”

The public are being asked to use the health services appropriately and help ensure care is available to those who need it most.

“Take all sensible steps to reduce your chances of requiring health service treatment on the day.

“At the same time, if you need emergency hospital care on the day, you must seek it immediately.

“The Department is very aware of the deep frustration of health service staff at the ongoing absence of a pay offer for this year.

“We also understand that this frustration is further compounded by indications that funding for public sector pay increases is potentially available.”

Under the current 2023/24 health budget, it has not yet been possible for the Department to make a pay offer to HSC staff.

The spokesperson added: “That situation is neither sustainable nor defensible and cannot hold indefinitely.”

Unison NI Calls for end to Pay Deadlock

In a social media statement, Unison set out its table for the strike on the 18th January.

The statement said: “Preparation is well underway for all out strike action next week among thousands of UNISON health and education workers.

“Industrial action committees meeting at UNISON Northern Ireland HQ yesterday heard detailed reports of plans for extensive picket lines on January 18 at all the acute and community main health facilities.

“EA school based and headquarter staff will also mount pickets right across the region.”

Anne Speed Head of Bargaining and Representation said: ” “There won’t be a workplace that is not affected next week.

“Indeed, in all of the major towns, big and small, workers will be stepping out to demand pay justice.

“They are fed up to the back teeth with low pay and no pay increases that are due to them.

“The Secretary of State is using political roadblocks to keep workers in a low pay and no pay deadlock.

“If our politicians get back to work then workers would not have to stop work.”

Unison itself has run a campaign attacking the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act introduced by the Tories in 2023 which can force some workers in sectors back to work or terminate contracts.

27 years ago GCHQ workers were banned from striking and it took 27 years to get this overturned.

Underpinning this pending strike is the trade union objection to the government forcing people back to work off the picket lines and upholding everyone’s right to strike.

The Winter of Discontent is upon us as trade unions now prepare for their industrial actions.