Protest rally at Stormont today over living cost crisis

A protest rally to urge Stormont politicians to take action on the cost-of-living crisis is due to take place in Belfast this afternoon.

A rally will be held at Stormont
A rally will be held at Stormont

The rally, organised by the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trades Unions, takes place at Stormont today against a backdrop of deepening tension between workers and employers across the UK as pay fails to match soaring inflation and living standards are eroded.

In England, strikes by workers with the RMT trade union have wreaked havoc with the travel network in recent days.

In Northern Ireland, there have been several walkouts at private sector firms in recent weeks while strike action centred on a public sector pay offer that brought workers employed by local councils, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and the Education Authority onto picket lines is currently suspended to allow talks to take place — but could result in a renewed bout of industrial action.

And while that dispute centres on a previous pay offer for public sector workers negotiated by trade unions previously, tensions remain high as talks take place on a UK-wide level for the latest public sector pay offer.

The trade union Unison, the largest in the Northern Ireland health service, has also warned this week that it is “preparing for a sustained autumn campaign up to and including industrial action” as it demands a “decent pay rise” for workers.

Owen Reidy, the assistant general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions Northern Ireland Committee, told the News Letter earlier this week that he expects the recent wave of strikes to “get worse” in the weeks and months ahead.

“We have seen a wave of industrial action and strike action in recent months, and this is likely to continue and get worse,” he said.

“Across the economy public and private sector workers, many of whom were the very ‘essential’ workers who got us through the pandemic, are doing whatever they have to, to seek to protect their pay and earnings and maintain their families’ living standards.”

Mr Reidy’s organisation, an umbrella body representing most trade unions with a combined membership in Northern Ireland of around a quarter-of-a-million workers, is calling for a return to devolved powersharing government at Stormont so that politicians here can take measures to address the crisis. Today’s rally is due to kick-off from 12 noon today at Stormont.