The statement from the Northern Ireland Permanent Secretary on Monday 22nd May that due to funding cuts from the Tory government, no pay offer would be made to health workers in 2023 will be viewed with anger and disgust by all workers within the NHS in the North.
The timing of the announcement ahead of a scheduled joint trade union meeting with the Secretary of State Chris Heaton Harris on 25th May makes Thursday’s planned meeting on NHS pay now pointless if no offer of money will be on the table.
In effect, there is now the danger that pay parity throughout the NHS is about to be broken again, as it was in 2015 by Jim Wells of the DUP before being fought for and restored again by trade unions in Jan 2020 after a successful 6-week strike throughout the region – supported by thousands of trade unionists with massive support from the public.
There is no way that healthcare workers in the North can accept a zero pay offer, these are the same key workers who put their lives on the line working throughout the Covid 19 pandemic and with the rate of inflation still running in double figures anything less than a cost of living increase is in effect a slap in the face to these heroes who hold together a National Health Service decimated by government cuts.
Trade unions across the UK have taken months of strike action in 2022/23 to defend the NHS and fight for a decent pay increase that led the Tory government to offer a 5% deal to healthcare workers in England Scotland and Wales. This potential deal still falls way short of what NHS workers deserve, Unison trade union has accepted the deal but the RCN and Unite along with other unions prepared to fight on.
It will require healthcare workers in the North to return to the streets in all-out strike action like we saw in 2019/20 to secure a decent pay increase and assure pay parity won’t be broken again.
The time for talks and negotiations has long passed, to call off previous strike action for talks was always going to be a mistake when dealing with a government that has nothing but contempt for working people.
All-out strike action points the only way forward to achieve a proper pay offer.