NHS   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Thousands of nurses and healthcare workers in Northern Ireland have been taking part in industrial action since November over pay parity and staffing.

The workers in the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), Unison and Unite trade unions are fighting to be paid the same as their counterparts in England, Scotland and Wales. The RCN argues the real value of nurses’ pay in Northern Ireland has fallen by 15% over the past eight years.

Devolved government returned to Northern Ireland on 11 January and new health minister Robin Swann claims he wants to resolve the strike, but workers are rightly saying they want a deal delivered, not just words, before industrial action is ended.

Tory Julian Smith, Northern Ireland secretary in Westminster, claimed that the 12-hour strike on 10 January should have been called off given the restoration of government in Stormont. But he holds powers to intervene and could have done so earlier.

Hundreds of nurses and health care workers staged a picket outside the Department of Health on 10 January.

They argued that they have been told money is there to resolve the matter, and that they need to ensure they get it. They demanded Smith ensures the money is released.

CWI Northern Ireland members say: “The commitments in the current draft Stormont deal provide no assurances to workers that they will actually receive pay equality.

“As we all know, promises from the Tories mean little and the reality is that health workers and patients are being used as a bargaining chip by the governments. The entire situation is a disgraceful reflection of the duplicity and callousness that marks what is considered to be mainstream politics.”