Health workers direct anger at Minister Poots

John Bourke pictured with the carvings.
John Bourke pictured with the carvings.

Staff of Craigavon Area Hospital held a ‘double’ strike on Thursday, with Health Minister Edwin Poots the subject of much of their anger.

The workers protested against the pay freeze of the past three years and the ongoing problems of the HRPTS payments system where staff are being short-changed over their salary.

“A risible one per cent is being bandied about at the moment,” said UNISON secretary Edna Magill, with the union also claiming that 60 per cent of NHS staff again receive no pay rise.

Several ‘Edwin Poots’ figures supported the action, with many protestors sporting masks of the Stormont Health Minister to amplify their protest.

Flanked by two of the ‘Poots’ impersonators, UNISON local chair John Creaney held aloft a large cheque stating that 60 per cent of NHS staff would receive no pay rise this year, and he added, “Stormont MLAs will receive a seven per cent pay rise, amounting to around £4,000. Their percentages come off a higher base rate, which makes it all the more unfair.”

Edna Magill pointed out that the HRPTS payment system was delaying payment to staff “especially in Belfast” in four-figure sums. “It is all very well to say that the money will be paid, but staff are having to face immediate payments on their day-to-day living and they won’t wait.

“To be fair, it hasn’t been too bad in Craigavon where they seem to have it sorted out. Our protests are mainly about the lack of pay rises, and the demonstration is also in sympathy with Belfast staff and the payment chaos.”

UNISON, NIPSA and UNITE staff all took part in the two-hour action on Thursday and they say further action is planned, culminating with the province-wide strike ballot in July-August.

The NHS has stated that the salary chaos is being resolved, and that the problems are being sorted out.