AMBULANCE workers and other NHS staff are ‘determined’ and ‘out solid’ throughout Northern Ireland, the GMB regional officer, Michael Mulholland, said yesterday, during the 24-hour strike over pay.
GMB said about 3,000 staff took strike action, including 450 ambulance workers.
Mulholland told News Line: ‘The wider NHS membership were out on pickets in extremely cold and wintry conditions from 9am.
‘The ambulance workers came out at 12 noon. Unison are not on strike neither are NIPSA out on strike because they are not in dispute.
‘Unite workers came out on strike alongside the GMB.
‘The strike was solid. I was concerned the weather would affect the picket numbers but it hasn’t.
‘They are determined! They believe that they are entitled to be negotiated with on the basis of a deal similar to our colleagues in England.
‘The Northern Ireland Health Minister has not put an offer on the table.
‘Instead we are invited to make reference to it in the discussions we have been offered. There is also no pay offer on the table for 2014/15. This is moving the goal posts and is totally unacceptable.’
Unite’s health officer, Kevin McAdam, said: ‘Our industrial committee concluded that due to the inaction of the Health Department here in Northern Ireland and their unwillingness to engage with the unions, the strike action would go ahead.’
He said Unite members ‘have been refused the pay review body’s recommendation of 1% from April 2014’.
Meanwhile, Ealing Hospital workers were disgusted yesterday morning at calling off the NHS strike action for the 1% pay rise in England.
Fiona Hibbs, a nurse, who described herself as ‘a disgusted Unison member’, condemned the deal the unions struck with Tory Health Secretary Hunt for the calling off of Thursday’s strike.
She told News Line: ‘I’m disgusted they’ve called off the strike. £200 to the lowest paid workers – that’s one week’s breakfast allowance for an MP!
‘We haven’t achieved the aim, which was just a mere 1% for all, and now we’re actually looking at a worse deal because they have agreed to re-negotiate Agenda for Change.
‘The loss of unsocial hours payments is the big thing and they are going to negotiate them away!
‘I’m absolutely disgusted.’
Unite member Terry O’Hearchin said: ‘The calling off of the strike is terrible, diabolical. These cuts have to be opposed. The strike is going ahead in the north of Ireland and so it should here.’
Nillima Maloney, a midwife, condemned the threatened closure of the maternity department, saying: ‘It’s such a busy hospital. I don’t know where our women will go.
‘And it’s not just our ladies. We are having to move to other hospitals. We want to stay here and look after our ladies.’
Zoe Kpaka, a Unison nurse, said: ‘They can’t even fight for one per cent. It’s very bad. They’ve held off our increment for years.
‘There has to be a fight to stop the closure of our A&E and maternity and the unions have to wage that fight.’
John McNaughton, a patient who lives in West Ealing, said: ‘All the facilities here must be protected.
‘The A&E is vital here. The unions should fight and we should occupy.’
On Wednesday the Royal College of Nursing issued a statement opposing the threatened closures of the A&Es at Ealing and Charing Cross Hospitals, the first health union to have done so.