Healthcare workers in Derry have today been staging a protest outside Altnagelvin Hospital to “highlight deepening frustration at the declining value of their pay packet”.
Members of the UNISON trade union - including nurses, paramedics, porters, cleaners, cooks, therapists and healthcare assistants - mounted their demonstration between noon and 3 p.m.
The protest - just one of many to take place in the North and right across England and Wales - was part of a union campaign demanding “fair pay” in the NHS.
One of the protesters said: “As things stand, I am robbing Peter to pay Paul. My main priority now is to keep up with my mortgage payments. But, I can tell you, it’s no easy task.”
A UNISON spokesperson said the protests aimed to highlight the “dire state” of NHS pay and the devastating impact of cuts to NHS budgets.
Health trusts, said the union rep, were struggling with budget deficits - a result of underfunding.
Anne Speed, UNISON’s head of bargaining and representation in Northern Ireland, added: “Our members in the NHS tell us they are demoralised, overworked and undervalued. And we also know that a demotivated workforce is bad for patients.”
“Our members are among those hit hard by the state of the economy, the rise in the cost of food and fuel, coupled with housing and threatened benefit cuts. The pay debacle in missing or delayed wages has made a bad situation worse.
“It is a disgrace that working people have to rely on benefits, food banks or resort to payday loans at exorbitant interest rates to make ends meet.”
The Department of Health said on Wednesday that the problem had been largely resolved.
A Department spokesman said: “The issues around tax codes and national insurance contributions have been effectively resolved.
“Significant additional resources have been directed towards resolving issues at local level around enhancements to basic pay to prevent the problems recurring.
“The number of staff affected this month has decreased markedly and any shortfalls are being addressed urgently.
“All staff are encouraged to submit claims for enhancements on time to facilitate correct payment.
“The minister has made it clear he expects this issue to be resolved, however he recognises there will always be the potential for pay to be incorrect due to late or inaccurate submission of claims.”