The Southern Health Trust is making contingency plans after news that local health workers voted to go on strike.
The largest health union UNISON, which represents all health workers except doctors, revealed that 92% of staff polled voted for industrial action.
A spokesperson for the Southern Health Trust said: “The Trust has been undertaking detailed contingency planning for potential strike action. Contingency planning will intensify when the detail of industrial action/strike action is confirmed.”
UNISON, which represents staff mostly in nursing, social care and support services, organised a ballon which concentrated on the main issues of pay justice and safe staffing levels.
Local UNISON representative John Creaney said: “The absence of both has been a key contributing factor in the now crisis level in waiting lists and waiting times for patients across NI.
“The message from UNISON members is clear. They are no longer prepared to accept the lowest pay levels in the UK, the greatest number of frontline vacancies and the highest waiting lists.
“The attitude of the Department of Health and those currently running the service has been one of disregard for the intolerable conditions our members are working under and disrespect for the patients queuing for the health care they urgently require.
“UNISON’s elected representatives across the health system will meet on Friday (15th) to finalise details for a comprehensive industrial action plan. The plan includes strike action and other forms of industrial action across the system and will become operational once the action is approved by the UNISON Executive. In any event we anticipate the first action before the end of November 2019.
Patricia McKeown, Regional Secretary said “Health workers do not take industrial action lightly but they have been pushed to the brink. Responsibility for averting this critical situation lies with the Department of Health, the Head of the NI Civil Service and the Department of Finance. They must access the funding necessary to resolve the pay problem and begin to address safe staffing levels as a matter of extreme urgency. Their current proposals are rejected by us as wholly inadequate”