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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Health service industrial action could be avoided by return of the Executive – Swann

Robin Swann MLA with members of the Royal College of Midwives at Antrim Area Hospital. 

Robin Swann MLA with members of the Royal College of Midwives at Antrim Area Hospital. 

Ulster Unionist MLA and former Health Minister Robin Swann has said the latest slate of industrial action by members across several health unions could have been avoided if there had been an Executive and locally accountable Ministers in post.

The North Antrim MLA said:

“In late 2019 and early 2020, for the first time ever many tens of thousands of people such as nurses and other key health support workers took to the streets to strike in opposition to their pay falling well behind the rest of their UK counterparts.

"That largely was a result of a lack of focus from within the Department of Health, combined with a damaging three-year absence of the Assembly and Executive from early 2017.

“Within three days of the Executive being restored in January 2020, as the newly appointed Minister of Health I was able to produce a detailed plan to pay staff what they deserved, as well as a slate of other measures, and importantly had secured political agreement from the rest of the Executive to fund them.

“The restoration of pay parity with staff in England & Wales was absolutely critical to that overall plan however and the day it was announced I also made it clear that I never again wanted to see a situation develop in Northern Ireland whereby our health workers were paid less as a direct result of the failure of politics.

“Yet unfortunately, and reprehensively, that is exactly what has happened once again. As a direct result of the absence of a local Executive, and the associated chaos in our public funds, health workers pay this year has again fallen significantly behind the rest of the United Kingdom.

“I am absolutely certain that as soon as an Executive is restored, no matter what Party holds the Health Ministry, money will be found and a decision will be taken to confirm this years’ pay award.  Unfortunately however, in the ongoing absence of an Executive it appears increasingly inevitable that the local Departments, as well as the Northern Ireland Office, will stick to the position that the pay awards are undeliverable.

“I totally understand the real frustrations of health workers – overall they’ve never had to work under such workload pressures as they currently do and yet once again they are witnessing history repeating itself and their pay falling victim to political stalemate and gridlock. That is why they feel they have no other option but to take industrial action, yet in the continuing absence of a mechanism to actually grant the pay awards I fear the impasse on their conditions will continue. As such the frustration from workers, as well as the major disruption experienced by patients, appears set to continue right up until the Executive can be restored." 


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