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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Staffing challenges continue as strike fears lead to contingency planning at Northern Trust

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust is making contingency plans in anticipation of possible industrial action among staff, board members heard on Thursday.

Speaking at a board meeting, Jacqui Reid, Human Resources Director, said that a number of ballots are being carried out by trade unions among healthcare workers.

She said that she considers that the outcome will result in industrial action.

“What it will look like, we are not sure yet. We are building in a contingency plan for what we suspect will be the outcome of these ballots.”

During her “People Report” for October, Jacqui Reid indicated a “sharp spike” in resignations last month and a staff turnover rate that is “still high” at almost nine per cent.

She noted that 29 resignations were among nursing colleagues who have been with the Trust for less than two years. A 12 per cent vacancy rate was recorded among “band five” nurses.

Unison has launched an industrial action ballot among 350,000 NHS employees, working for more than 250 health trusts and boards in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Porters, nurses, security guards, paramedics, cleaners, midwives, occupational therapists, social workers and other health and social care staff are being asked to have their say on a vote for industrial action and action short of strike.

Unison says that the ballot has been prompted following a recommendation from the Pay Review Body, which it says is “insufficient to cover the needs of health workers who have been at the frontline of the Covid pandemic and are now facing a cost of living crisis”.

Unison’se Northern Ireland Regional Secretary Patricia McKeown said:  

“The Pay Review Body has made a recommendation that won’t help our members pay their bills in the face of the cost of living crisis. That’s why we have no alternative but to move to ballot our members for industrial action.

“Not only is the recommendation of the Pay Review Body inadequate, but worse still, Government at Westminster have made no money available to Ministers in Northern Ireland to fund a pay rise.

“Unison is not prepared to have our members be abandoned when they have done so much over the last two and a half years in dealing with the pandemic. In the face of a cost of living crisis, our members need a decent, fair pay rise.

“Unison does not advocate for strike action as the first option.  It’s always a measure of last resort.  But for our members there is no alternative left.”


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