Unison: Strike action will target ‘all NI trusts and every workplace’

Nurses are set to strike. (Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire)
Nurses are set to strike. (Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire)
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Health workers could withdraw labour in “targeted areas” across all the health trusts in Northern Ireland, a top-ranking union official has said.

Anne Speed, a negotiator with the trade union Unison, said industrial action would be in “every trust, across the whole geography of Northern Ireland, and every workplace that comes within the health service system”.

This comes after a breakdown in talks between unions and the Department of Health last week.

Both Unison, which represents thousands of nurses and other health workers in Northern Ireland, and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have voted to strike.

For the RCN, it is the first time in the organisation’s 113-year history that members have ever opted for strike action in any part of the UK.

The unions are unhappy about both staffing levels and the fact that pay rates are lower here than in other parts of the UK for the same job.

Unison officials are due to meet on Friday to decide on the exact form of industrial action.

Ms Speed told the News Letter: “Some of the options we are exploring include the withdrawal of labour, in targeted areas and specific locations across all the trusts, simultaneously.

“There will be other actions short of strike which will involve a work-to-rule, no interference with breaks and working to strict safety protocols.

“In relation to nursing, which we will be discussing with the RCN, there will be very specific forms of action but we’re not prepared to disclose that at this point in time.”

She said action would be taken in “every trust, across the whole geography of Northern Ireland, and every workplace that comes within the health service system”.

The Department of Health, meanwhile, has remained tight-lipped about its contingency plans for the looming industrial action.

A spokesperson said on Friday, following news that RCN members intend to strike, that the department had been “working with Trusts and other Health and Social Care employers to develop and commission industrial action business continuity and contingency plans”.

Yesterday, the department said its plans are still being “finalised”.

On pay, a spokesperson for the department said: “The department remains focussed on finding a way forward – in this context we are currently finalising a formal pay offer for 2019/20. This will be the best offer possible.”