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Chair of Council’s health committee and NHS employee of 30 years joins picket line

Hugh Gallagher on the picket line
Hugh Gallagher on the picket line

A councillor who has worked in the health system for over 30 years has joined a union strike urging for “safe staffing levels” and better pay.

NHS employees have joined picket lines today (Friday) across Northern Ireland, angered at being the only UK region not to receive an offer of a wage increase, following talks with the Westminster government.

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council (NMDDC) rep Hugh Gallagher is a South East Trust social worker and chairperson of the Newry, Mourne and Down’s health committee.

On the Unison picket line at the Downshire hospital, he said: “I have taken a stand as a Trust employee and a local councillor to join the picket with my colleagues from 8am this morning.

“It is vital that our voice is heard and we will continue to make our voices heard for as long as this takes.

“A fair pay is important to fight for, along with appropriate and safe staffing levels throughout the Trust.

“Staff having given their all over the past three years especially over the Covid pandemic. Keeping everyone in the community protected.

“It’s time for recognition and equality of pay.”

Unison branch secretaries from across the health Trusts have called on Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris to immediately provide Northern Ireland staff with a pay offer.

Unison regional secretary Patricia McKeown said: “The UK government, those are the people who hold the purse strings those are the people who have intervened in England to make a pay offer.

“The Scottish and Welsh governments have delivered for its people and England the UK government stepped in.

“Here they behave as though we do not exist and have no value, well if they have not yet learned the response of the people of Northern Ireland to being treated with disrespect or contempt or managed into further inequality then they have misread all of us.

“There has to be a response and we expect to hear from them today or this action continues.”

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