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Unions aim for biggest ever show of strength in day of action

Unison Strike

Tens of thousands of union members across the Province will go on strike tomorrow in one of the biggest days of industrial action ever seen here.

Schools, health and social care, public transport and emergency services will be among those affected by the public sector workers’ walk-out.

And the extent of the strikes, in protest at budget cuts and job losses, is unlikely to be fully known until the morning.

Among the unions participating are Unite, UNISON, NIPSA, GMB and INTO and they are aiming to for a show of strength by members never before seen in the Province, with services hit right across the board.

It relation to schools, it will be up to principals to decide if schools will close.

It is expected that in some cases they will only be kept open for senior students who are sitting senior examinations.

Among school closures already confirmed in Armagh City tomorrow are St Patrick’s Grammar School, St Catherine’s College (except for exams), St Malachy’s Primary School and CBS Primary.

Many more, in the region of 500 across the Province, will remain closed.

The action will not only hit teachers, but everyone from canteen staff to school bus drivers.

The Southern Education and Library Board in Armagh said that it expects school transport will operate as normal with minimal disruption.

But a spokesperson said: “There remains the possibility that some home to school transport services will not operate.

“Parents should ensure that their child/children are not left unaccompanied at a bus-stop; and where a home to school transport service does not operate, parents will have to make alternative arrangements to get their child/children to school.

“Where there is no service in the morning, this will also apply in the afternoon; and parents will need to make alternative arrangements to get their child/children home.

“Normal arrangements will resume on Monday, March 16.”

A number of services will NOT be operating tomorrow and we have listed these at the end.

Unions have agreed a protocol in relation to emergency situations and this will apply to both the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and NI Fire and Rescue Service.

It is expected that there will be no response to cases which are considered urgent but not classified as life-threatening.

The Department of Health had said that extensive planning had been taking place to keep disruption to patients and clients at a minimum during the planned day of action.

A spokesperson said arrangements have been put in place to “ensure that critical services will be maintained” and that “cover will be provided for emergency services and activities”.

The spokesperson said:”This will include some outpatients, inpatients and the most vulnerable who require care in a community setting and in residential and children’s homes.

“There will be cancellation of non-critical planned procedures and appointments.

“While every effort will be made to maintain services as far as possible, it is likely that patients and clients may experience delays on the day.

“Health care providers will take steps to inform patients and clients of the impact of the industrial action, where this is necessary, however patients and clients should check with their local health care provider for information on their individual circumstances.”

Translink NI tonight remainded customers that action by the Unite and GMB trade unions means that all train and bus services will be cancelled.

It takes effect with cross-border travel from later tonight (Thursday).

Ciaran Rogan of Translink said: “I would like to apologise to all our passengers who will be inconvenienced by this strike action which is unfortunately beyond our control.

“Services will return to normal on Saturday, March 14, 2015.”

In relation to schools’ transport, Mr Rogan added: “We are in touch with the Education and Library Boards to find out if schools are open on Friday and to discuss options for transport.”

Libraries, MOT centres, and jobs and benefits may also be hit and, as with the case of schools and hospitals and health facilities, the onus is being put on individuals to check first.

NIPSA, Northern Ireland’s largest public service trade union, tonight made a final call to around 40,000 of its members in civil service departments and related non-departmental public bodies, health and social care sector, education boards (including schools based staff) and libraries, to participate in the strike action.

Alison Millar, the union’s Deputy General Secretary, speaking in advance, said: “NIPSA will be organising pickets at public service offices and workplaces across Northern Ireland, at schools and other educational establishments, social security offices, libraries and hospitals and social services facilities.

“Early indications are that the strike will be heavily supported, sending a clear message to the NI Executive and to the Westminster Government that there is widespread anger at the impact of the austerity policies being forced upon the people of Northern Ireland.

“NIPSA requires an unambiguous commitment from the NI political parties which will have MPs elected to the Westminster Parliament that they will use any leverage they have to force an adequate public expenditure settlement for Northern Ireland which doesn’t visit misery on those who rely heaviest on public services.”

A series of pickets are being planned, including at the Armagh Jobs and Benefits Office, from 7.30am onwards.

Other pickets locally will include at Tower Hill in Armagh, Craigavon Area Hospital, Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry, and Lurgan Hospital, the Southern Education and Library Board headquarters on the Mall, Lurgan Jobs and Benefits Office – between 7.45 am and 11am – Portadown Health Centre, Portadown Jobs and Benefits Office, the Probation Board in Portadown, and the Rivers Agency’s Craigavon Depot at the Seagoe Industrial Estate.

The Irish National Teachers Organisation, which has over 2,000 members alone in the Southern Education and Library Board area, is planning pickets and marches across the Province tomorrow.

The main march will take place in Belfast, assembling at Writers’ Square at 12noon, leaving at 12.30pm and arriving for a mass rally in front of City Hall at 1pm.

While there is no planned rally in Armagh City, there will be a rally assembling at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry at 1pm, which will be addressed by Kevin Daly, INTO’s Southern Area post-primary representative, and another at 2pm at South Tyrone Hospital in Dungannon, where the speaker is Mary Dorman, the union’s Southern Area primary representative.

Other scheduled rallies are as follows: Derry – March from Altnagelvin, 12noon • rally at Guildhall Square, 1pm; Stabane – Assemble Market Street, 12noon, rally at Abercorn Square, 1pm; Enniskillen – Assemble Gaol Square, 12.30pm, rally at the Diamond, 1pm; Omagh, – Assemble Tyrone County Hospital, 12.30pm, rally at the Courthouse, 1pm; Magherafelt, Assemble and Rally at The Diamond, 10am; and Cookstown, Assemble and Rally at The Old Post Office, 12noon.


Among the school transport routes confirmed cancelled are the following:

School: Christian Brothers Abbey Grammer / Ballyholland PS / Sacred Heart Grammar

Route: Carrogs Rd / Milltown St / Greenan Rd

School: Lisanally Special School

Route: Portadown / Craigavon to Lisnally

School: Lisanally Special School

Route: Banbridge to Lisanally

School: Lisanally Special School

Route: Middletown / Monaghan Area to Lisanally

School: St Marys Maghery / Birches PS

Route: Farlough Rd / Birches / Portadown Rd / Maghery

School: St Patrick’s HS Keady

Route: From Markethill Rd / Ballymacnab / Tassagh

School: Integrated College Dungannon, St Patricks Academy Dungannon, Royal School Dungannon, St Josephs Grammar Donaghmore, St Patricks College Dungannon, Drumglass HS Dungannon, Laghey PS, St Josephs PS Galbally, St Ciarans High Ballygawley

Route: Greystone Area to Dungannon, Laghey / Bush / Dungannon / Cappagh / Galbally to Donaghmore

School: Drumglass HS, St Patricks PS Donaghmore, Donaghmore PS, St Josephs Grammar Donaghmore, Gaelscoil Ui Neill

Route: Bush / Laghey to Dungannon, Rock / Thornhill Rd to Donaghmore.

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