Social workers across Northern Ireland are taking part in mass strikes today in protest against budget cuts and subsequent workplace pressures.
Day centres, homecare and community transport services are also being affected as care workers, health and education staff join the action.
Unison claims government cut backs in Northern Ireland will total £2.3bn over the next four years, equivalent to 6,000 job losses.
All government departments are being forced to save money because of a £4bn cut in real terms due to the UK government’s grant to the country over the next four years and slow economic growth.
“This action does not come lightly to any Unison member,” said Patricia McKeown, the union’s Northern Ireland regional secretary. “They are sacrificing their pay in difficult times to highlight the impact of cuts on services and jobs.
“It is over 30 years since strike action took place simultaneously across our integrated health and social care system.
“Many of the workers taking strike action on Wednesday were children themselves when the last main strike occurred. For the majority it will be the first time they have ever been on strike,” she added.
Emergency cover has been put in place to keep residential care homes for children and adults operating throughout the strike.
The strike, which started at midnight, is due to continue for 24 hours.
Edwin Poots, health minister, said: “I respect the democratic right of any trade union to take lawful industrial action, but strike action is unnecessarily disruptive to patients and staff. I would reiterate that my door is always open and I am always prepared to talk to those who represent the healthcare workforce – that is how to get things resolved.”
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