Unison Demands Parity For Nurses And Hospital Staff

Strike Action At Downe Hospital.

Nurses and other hospital staff had a walkout and a day of strike action at the Downe Hospital in Downpatrick following teh breakdown of talk to try and settle the claims supported by UNISON for an 8% increase for nurses to bring them on a par with those in the rest of the UK.

It was announced yesterday that the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service paramedics will also be joining in the industrial action for a big strike across the health system on Wednesday 18th December for one day.

(l-r) Eamonn McGrady, Down Community Health Committee Chairman; Liam Fox, Unison Representative, Marion Ritchie, Unison Branch Secretary, and Ann Trainor, Vice Chairperson of the Down Community Health Committee pictured during the strike action at the entrance to the Downshire Estate in Downpatrick. (Photos by Jim Masson,)

Trusts are already monitoring the healthcare implication of strike action very carefully and are trying to keep the public as informed as they can about changes to appointments and services. Following the strike action on Friday 6 December several thousand procedures, appointments and surgeries were cancelled. The next big strike day will be on Thursday 18 December.

Unison Fighting For Safe Staffing Levels and Pay Parity.

Speaking at the strike action, Marion Ritchie said: “There always seems to be money found for various programmes but not for nurses’ pay. This shows a clear breach of trust.

“We must write to the Permanent Secretary for Health today and ask him to deliver what we want and deserve. We deserve better and get little thanks for the services we provide. Our wages have stood still – now the Trusts and politicians need to show us their support by their actions. We’ve listened to them long enough. We want results. Now!”

Stikers and supporters at the gate of the Downe Hospital.

Marion Ritchie later added: “Local Unison officials would like to thank all its members who supported last Friday‚Äôs strike. We would also like to thank the public for the support they showed on Friday to the staff who have given up their pay to fight for safe staffing levels & pay parity with our colleagues in the rest of the UK. The strength and passion of the support highlights how strongly local people feel about their NHS and its ability to deliver a first class service.


“Due to a lack of workforce planning and by the Department of Health (DoH) and leadership and support from our politicians, staffing has become a crisis and pay parity with the rest of the UK has been abandoned.

“This a has also led to long waiting lists affecting the most vulnerable in our society. It is because Unison and its members care about these important issues that we have been left with no other alternative but to take strike action.

Unison members, staff and supporters conduct a walkout from the entrance to the Down Hospital to the front gate to form a picket.

“Despite statements from the DoH and meetings with the trade unions, no proper pay offer has yet been made which will achieve pay parity or have a long term plan for our NHS.

“If this is not achieved by 18 December Unison, members in the Down area will be reluctantly forced to take strike action again. At this stage all staff will be out, Domestics, porters, catering staff, admin staff, dental nurses, all wards and departments in the Downe and Downshire and outlying facilities.”

Down Community Health Commitee Backs Strikers

Speaking at the industrial action in Downpatrick, Down Community Health Committee Chairman Eamonn McGrady said: “We are delighted to be here today to express our support and solidarity with Unison and the staff at the Downe Hospital.

“This industrial action is a last resort… they have been left with no choice whatsoever.

Strikers and supporters at the front gates of the Downshire Estate.

“There always seems to be money for other projects but not for the nurses. It’s time this was changed. The wages they should be getting paid can be found somewhere. They deserve to be on a par with other nurses across the country. This issue has been simmering for a number of years and despite efforts to resolve it with the Department, it has come down to a strike action.”

Vice Chair Anne Trainor added: “The staff in our local hospitals are being treated as second class citizens. They had no choice but to take this action. There is 100% support for them from across our community and this is heartening.

“Just to think that our nurses are getting paid 8% less that their counterparts in England for doing the same job. It is a total disgrace.

“Some of these nurse swill have worked through the Troubles and will have had to deal with horrific injuries and we owe them the right to a fair wage. They serve us well. Now its time those in the Department of Health and in the Trust to listen to them.”