13/01/2020

Minister Swann To Meet Health Unions

Stormont's new health minister Robin Swann is to meet trade unions over the ongoing strike action.

Ulster Unionist minister Robin Swann has pledged to solve the pay dispute "right away".

Nurses and healthcare workers have been engaged in industrial action over staffing shortages and a lack of pay parity in recent weeks. The dispute saw local nurses take to the picket line for the first time ever in the UK last December, with two further strike days carried out last week.

"I am happy to confirm that contact has been made with trade unions and I will be meeting with them as soon as possible this week," Mr Swann confirmed.

"I'm looking forward to getting this dispute sorted right away. Obviously, the financial package for the new Executive and support from other Ministerial colleagues will be central to making that happen. We need our nurses and other health workers back at work.

"There's a massive challenge for all of us in making our health service better and our great staff have a vital role to play in that."

UNISON confirmed the meeting will go ahead on Tuesday 14 January.

The union's regional secretary Anne Speed welcomed the swift move by Minister Swann to hold a meeting as "recognition that the determination and courage of thousands of health workers has made the health service the key priority for our new government".

The unions main demands are the restoration of pay parity and comprehensive engagement on plans and funds for staff staffing.
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"Everyone in the Health workforce has played their part and sustained a historic campaign of action since 25th November 2019," Ms Speed said. "From nurses to cleaners and cooks, from porters to occupational therapists, from paramedics to clerical workers, from home care workers to transport drivers and all grades in between, they have stood up for their rights and the rights of their patients.

"The bona fides of the commitments given to health workers by the Secretary of State and the parties forming the new Executive will be directly tested in the coming days. We anticipate a positive outcome."

The Royal College of Nursing also welcomed the restoration of a powersharing Executive and said plans set out in the 'New Decade, New Approach' deal must be implemented urgently.

RCN Director for Northern Ireland Pat Cullen said: "This is a momentous day, not just for the people of Northern Ireland, but for nursing staff who have firmly put health at the top of the political agenda. There is no doubt that the courage and determination shown by nurses, alongside the unwavering support of patients and the public, has been instrumental in bringing us to where we are today.

"We welcome Robin Swann MLA as our new Health Minister and call for an immediate meeting to begin the process of resolving our dispute about pay parity and safe staffing.

"Nurses could not have made it clearer that they do not want to be standing on picket lines losing yet more pay. They want to get back on the wards and in the community, treating and caring for patients like they should be. We require strong political leadership and if we are able to get a formal assurance from our new Health Minister that our requirements will be met, we may be in a position to suspend further industrial action."



(JG/CM)

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