The Northern Ireland Anti-Poverty Network welcomes the historic public sector strike on 18 January. Workers have balloted to take industrial action with an unprecedented level of coordination across the public sector, in transport, health, education, and civil service. 15 unions representing over 150,000 workers are coming together to take collective action.
Unions are demanding a pay increase, both to ensure parity between their pay in NI and the rest of GB, but also to reduce the inflationary cost of living pressures.
The Secretary of State, Chris Heaton Harris, has the money to resolve the pay dispute, but refuses to release it. Money should be made available immediately. It is incredulous that the Secretary of State is holding workers to ransom, claiming their pay dispute can only be realised with a functioning Executive. Workers across Northern Ireland are not pawns. This cynical tactic is tiresome, degrading and pathetic. Not only does the Secretary of State have the money for workers pay, but NIAPN calls on the Secretary of State to find the money to reverse the draconian budget cuts that have been devastating for the most vulnerable in our society, particularly children, those with disabilities, and their carers.
The reality is that public services have been run down by years of austerity and our health service, education sector and public sector in general is on its knees. There is no safe staffing. Workers are leaving in their droves. Workers deserve better.
To alleviate poverty the government must enact policies that ensure fair pay for workers, better working conditions and a strong, effective public sector, with quality public services. The workers standing up on 18 January are fighting for exactly this.
This general strike will bring communities together, highlighting the need for solidarity across our diverse society. Households cannot afford to continue down the path of low pay, poor working conditions and a gutting of our services. Afterall, the workers in our public sector are also users of these same public services and know all too well the danger of under-investment. Continuing on the path of under-investment, low wages, and sub-par services will destroy the social fabric of our society and drive more people further into poverty.
NIAPN applauds workers across the public sector for making the hard decision to take industrial action to mount pressure on the government to treat our workers with dignity and fund our workers and services fairly.
NIAPN encourages all of our member organisations to support the strikes. Attend picket lines and rallies in your localities. Raise your voice to support the workers and the public services they provide. Use the weight of your organisations to support the workers and the improved public services they are fighting for.
Time / location of 18 January strikes and rallies:
- *Belfast (City Hall) 12 noon – feeder parades from BCH (11am), RVH (11:15), Mater (11:30).
- *Derry (Guildhall Sq) 12:00 – feeders from Altnagelvin (10:30) & Sainsbury/Fort George (11.00).
- *Omagh (Courthouse) 1pm – March at 12.30 from Crevenagh Rd Park and Ride.
- *Enniskillen (Town Hall) 1pm – feeder parade from Brook Park, meet from 12, march off 12:30.
- *Magherafelt (Diamond) 11am
- *Cookstown (Old post office/Main St) 1pm.