Health workers in the Western Trust who are members of the Unite and GMB unions, joined their colleagues on the picket line yesterday in a bid to secure the 1% pay rise that has been rejected by the government.
Staff on the picket line at Altnagelvin Hospital insisted that had no choice but to go on strike action.
Kieran McDermott, who works in the control centre for the Ambulance service said, “I have a young family, with another baby on the way, and the cost of living keeps going up while our wages stay the same.
“It’s not just about the money either, the service we provide is essential and they keep expecting us to take on more work without employing more staff.”
Gareth Scott of Unite said, “A number of our workers are on strike today. They include support services, estate services, paramedics and control centre staff, and those from the pharmacy.”
He continued, “This is the first time in years that many of our members have gone on strike; many have never been on the picket line before.
“But this is not just about securing the 1% rise in wages, it’s about a moral issue too.
“We as a union are concerned about the funding of the health service as a whole.
“The pay issue is a problem now but it will also impact on recruitment going forward.
“Cuts to the health service need to be curtailed if the current standard of care is to be maintained.”
He also insisted that emergency cover was being provided by members.
“We are operating, in effect, on a Christmas Day schedule. If there’s a major incident staff will respond and the paramedics have their radios with them on the picket line in case they are needed for a serious issue.
“We accept that today’s strike is an inconvenience but we are doing what we can to minimise the impact on patients.”
Eddie Ryan, who works in support services, looking after the elderly in Gransha and local care homes, said it was “desperate times calling for desperate measures.”
He continued, “We are asking for a living wage. Two-thirds of our members are earning less than £20,000. I’m due to retire but I’m out here striking for the young people so that they can earn a decent wage in the future.”
Ollie Warnock, who works in the control centre for the ambulance service agreed.
“We do our job because we care about the patients but it’s getting very difficult, especially for the younger staff who deserve a decent wage going forward.”