Northern Ireland

Thousands of Unison workers set for walk-out

Unison said its members are working under increasingly 'impossible conditions'
Image caption Unison said its members are working under increasingly 'impossible conditions'

Thousands of health and education workers are preparing for a 24-hour strike across Northern Ireland due to begin at midnight.

The walk-out is in protest against front-line budget cuts.

Patricia McKeown of Unison said the situation was "critical" and needed to be put under a spotlight.

But whilst outpatient clinics and elective surgery will be affected, emergency cover will be provided in hospitals, she said.

The strike will affect all health workers except doctors, and some school staff.

"Recent reports indicated that we don't have a health service which is meeting its targets in critical areas such as accident and emergency," Ms McKeown said.

"The workers are facing some of the worst cuts in their history. They have not been well treated or well served by the government and that is contemptible. The bottom line is that ordinary people are paying."

The majority of outpatient clinics and elective surgery scheduled for Wednesday will not take place, but cover for emergencies will be in place.

Economist John Simpson suggested that Unison's strike action was premature.

"The core message is that we are generously funded by any standard within the UK," he said.

"We should be using what we have got more efficiently."

Mr Simpson said the health minister, Edwin Poots, had not yet published his formal plan.

"The public will think we have got a strike before we have had adequate debate," he said.

The education budget is facing a shortfall of £300m over four years, whilst health is facing cuts of £2.3bn.

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