WORKERS in the public sector, from school principals to health workers, must receive support in their fight for better pay, a trade union has said.
And Unison, the biggest public sector union in Northern Ireland, said its health members are determined to challenge the UK government’s 1% pay cap.
Anne Speed, Unison’s head of bargaining and negotiation, said: “This cap has forced staff out of jobs they love. Those who stay are overstretched and under pressure to do ever more with less.
“It is having a profound and detrimental effect on the ability of existing staff to deliver standards of care for people where our health service is struggling with staff shortages.
“Our members want guaranteed safe staffing levels across all services and the real term loss of earnings addressed.”
She said Unison had been disappointed by the decision of Northern Ireland’s 10 DUP MPs to vote to uphold the pay cap in the House of Commons last week.
“We do not expect any of our Northern Ireland MPs to vote to impose austerity on workers who have endured pay restraint for the last seven years.
“While the DUP has managed to secure some concessions for our public services, last week’s vote shows clearly that austerity is continuing.”
And she said the union also supported school principals who have vowed to resist pressure to implement cuts in school services.
“Despite the very recent warning from the Department of Education that schools won’t be allowed to overspend and that educational schemes for disadvantaged children are likely to be cut, Unison members stand ready to join with our teaching colleagues to resist the imposition of more austerity on the school community.”
Unison is taking part in the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) conference, which begins in Belfast today and closes on Thursday.
Ms Speed said: “We rely on politicians to make the right decisions and we rely on our own strength to influence these decisions and to ensure that promises made are delivered.
“We will be sending a message to politicians that we are determined to defend services, protect jobs and secure investment in our public sector.
“Our public services should be protected and supported with adequate and sustainable funding”.
Meanwhile, Irish trade union leader Patricia King — ICTU general secretary — has said Brexit will be used by “bad bosses” as an excuse to drive down wages.
She also warned there are unlikely to be “very many upsides for working people on this island” as a result of the UK’s EU departure.
Six motions have been tabled on the Brexit issue at the conference.