Public sector workers in Lisburn will be taking to the picket lines today (Friday) following a decision to take industrial action over service cuts.
There will be no bus services and a picket line will also be at Lagan Valley Hospital as members of the trade unions protest over the impact that budget cuts have had to services and pay for local staff.
Commenting on the proposed strike action, Unison Branch Secretary Peter McKenna said the action was a last resort but that workers felt they had to make their voices heard over cuts to services in the Lisburn area.
“Unison has not taken the decision to strike lightly and whilst we deeply regret the disruption to service users, we believe now is the time to take a stand. Strike action is always a last resort but we believe that the swinging cuts to all of our public services, and particularly on a local basis, to Lagan Valley hospital, are disastrous for patients and staff.
“Services are being cut at an unprecedented rate, and promised replacement services have not materialised.
“We believe the Trust are giving up on the Lagan Valley and relegating it to the status of a glorified health centre.
“Our staff have also been subject to real term pay reductions for a number of years whilst the pressure they are under continues to mount as a result of service closures across the country.”
Local Ulster Unionist Councillor Alexander Redpath said he was supporting the hospital staff and would be joining them on the picket line.
“The staff in our hospitals are immensely dedicated individuals who work long hours in difficult conditions for the benefit of the most vulnerable in society,” said Mr Redpath.
“Service cuts in hospitals across Northern Ireland have put unacceptable pressure on health service staff and the recent crises in A and Es across Northern Ireland is symptomatic of this pressure.
“I am always mindful of the inconvenience and hassle people are put to as a result of strike action and believe it is only justified in the gravest of circumstances.
“However I believe the situation in the Lagan Valley is very serious and I call upon the South Eastern Trust to listen carefully to the concerns of staff at the Lagan Valley Hospital.”
There will also be severe disruption to users of public transport as bus and train staff also join the industrial action.
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. I think it is important to give people as much notice as possible in order that they may make alternative arrangements for travel on that day. Services will return to normal on Saturday March 14.”
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.”
The impact of the teachers strike will have less impact in Lisburn, some schools have taken the decision to close, including St Joseph’s in Crumlin.