NHS workers have staged a protest outside Craigavon Area Hospital to demand the UK Treasury take urgent action to address the drastic shortfall in both pay and staffing levels in Northern Ireland.
And they are urging people to sign a petition to show their support for their aims.
Unions have warned of the “growing feelings of discontent and unrest of all NHS workers”.
John Creaney is the UNISON branch secretary of Craigavon Area Hospital’s branch.
He said members of UNISON – the largest health union – are feeling “undervalued, underpaid and unable to deliver the care and services they want for the public they serve”.
Members carrying placards staged their protests outside the hospital today (Thursday) as they sought to highlight concerns to the public.
Mr Creaney said: “We must be mindful going forward that it takes all health workers to run the NHS successfully and that UNISON values all of them. We cannot leave anyone behind. UNISON is about supporting all of its members.
“UNISON has thousands of nurse members and we will support them and ensure that their specific issues are addressed.
“We have been demanding decent pay for all and continue to do so in joint negotiations with employers and the Department of Health.
“A number of our branches are circulating a petition and are asking the public to support and sign it. We are demanding the UK Treasury release more funding to support the needs of all of our NHS workers in Northern Ireland. This will help stabilise the workforce and support our members to provide safe patient care and deliver services.”
Mr Creanry said agency spend is “spiralling out of control”.
He added: “It was a whopping £32,162,889 for the period 2017/2018. Some of this money could potentially pay for over a thousand new nurses across Northern Ireland. There are around 22,000 nurses in the service with a vacancy rate of just over 11%.
“In other words we are short more than one in 10 nurses across Northern Ireland.
“We will not forget our nursing health care assistants who are now paid £1,706 less per annum than their counterparts in Scotland.
“We will not forget our newly qualified registered nurses in Northern Ireland who are now paid £1,875 less per annum than their counterparts in Scotland.
“We will not forget all the pharmacists, technical staff, homecare workers, clerical workers, domestics, porters, allied health professionals, catering staff, lab workers, drivers and the many more UNISON members that make up the team that provide health and social care services to the public every single day, 24 hours a day.
“The work they do saving lives, extending lives, providing care, compassion and support when our families are ill and dying cannot be undervalued any longer.
“We work the same jobs with the same hours as those working in the NHS in England, Scotland and Wales. We have the same skills and qualifications. The public should ask why workers in Northern Ireland are being treated with such disrespect?
“We are demanding pay justice. Our pay should reflect our value to society, and pay justice is the means to stabilise and protect our workforce and enable safer, better patient outcomes. We all need to come together to secure pay justice for all workers.
“Safe staffing levels and effective care are rightly expected by the general public in Northern Ireland. In order to secure this, we ask that they demand: that additional funding is released from the Treasury to secure a pay deal reflective of what all our members deserve; that the value of our members work is reflected in any pay offer from the Department of Health within the coming weeks for all staff; and that a workforce strategy addressing national, regional and local level agreements outlining the required actions to provide safe and effective levels of care for the population we serve be brought forward.”