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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 20 March, 2019
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Healthcare workers begin 24-hour strike in Northern Ireland

Members of the Unison trade union are holding picket lines in front of numerous hospitals today to protest against frontline budget cuts.

Workers strike outside Antrim Area Hospital.
Workers strike outside Antrim Area Hospital.
Image: Paul Faith/PA Wire/Press Association Images

HEALTH AND SOCIAL care workers in Northern Ireland are staging strikes today to protest over the loss of funding for frontline services.

Members of the Unison trade union formed a picket line at the Mater Hospital in North Belfast from midnight, while staff at other hospitals began demonstrations this morning.

The union warned there will be widespread disruption throughout hospitals with numerous cancellations of elective operations and outpatient clinic appointments.

Emergency cover with the Health Trusts and the Ambulance Service has been put in place.

In Social Services, transport, day centres and other facilities are affected. Some schools will be affected also as special needs assistants join the walk-out.

Unison regional secretary, Patricia McKeown said, “It is more than 30 years since strike action took place simultaneously across our integrated Health and Social Care system. Many of the workers taking strike action on Wednesday were children themselves when the last main strike occurred. For the majority it will be the first time they have ever been on strike.

‘This action does not come lightly to any member. They are sacrificing their pay in difficult times to highlight the impact of cuts on services and jobs.”

According to the BBC, health services could see budget cuts of £2.3bn over the next four years. The education sector could lose up to £300m from its budget.

Northern Ireland’s health minister Edwin Poots has criticised the “drastic” decision to strike, stating it will affect patients and cause unnecessary disruption.

He also claimed that Unison has failed to explain the reasons behind the strike.

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