Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill has called on the British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to end the ‘unacceptable’ refusal to negotiate with NHS unions and to agree a fair settlement to avoid further strike action.
Criticising the British Government’s handling of the current dispute with healthcare staff, the First Minister Designate said:
“Our health and social care system in the north is in crisis as a result of 12 years of Tory austerity which has underfunded and undermined our public services.
“Striking workers are not only taking a stand for fair pay and safe staffing levels but they are also standing up in defence of the heatlh and social care system which continues to deteriorate and is facing into possibly its worst ever winter of pressures.
“Without fair pay and safe working conditions, it becomes much more difficult to retain skilled health and social care workers. That needs to be addressed because it is a key reason why our health service is in crisis.
“It is totally unacceptable that the British Government refuses to even negotiate with the workers’ trade union representatives.
“Our nurses and health workers shouldn’t have been forced onto the streets to take strike action in the freezing cold for fair pay and conditions.
“I raised this dispute with the British Prime Minister when he visited Belfast last week and I have written to him today again urging him to ensure his government immediately engages positively with the representative trade unions and pursues a suitable resolution that incorporates a fair pay and conditions settlement for health workers.
“Our nursing and healthcare staff are crucial to the functioning of the NHS so it’s time that the British Prime Minister started listening, and started negotiating.”