Local workers take to the streets

STAFF at Lagan Valley Hospital, who were joined by Unison members from throughout the city, took to the streets on Wednesday to protest at budget cuts.

Local members of the union joined the nationwide one day strike and held a picket line outside the Lisburn hospital.

Co-Secretary of the Lisburn branch of Unison, Mr John Gilgunn, said they had been overwhelmed by the response from local people.

“The support has been fantastic,” he said. “People have been blowing their horns on the way past and have even been leaving us sweets and supplies throughout the day.

“We have had over a hundred people here at stages and we have been visited by Councillor Stephen Martin, Councillor Brian Dornan and the Mayor, Councillor Brian Heading.

“We have also been supported by representatives from other unions, including NIPSA and UNITE.

“It has been fantastic and we are delighted with the response,” he added.

The Mayor of Lisburn, Councillor Brian Heading, visited the picket line on Wednesday to voice his support for the local workers. He also spoke with the Health Minister Edwin Poots about the strike and budget issues.

It was also revealed that Mr Heading has cancelled a Mayoral engagement on Wednesday as it would have crossed a union picket line.

“I fully support the striking healthcare workers,” said Mr Heading. “The standards of care we give to our elderly, sick and vulnerable is how we judge ourselves as a society. This is about the standards of care to patients, not the condition for workers.

“I took the opportunity to press this with the minister. I let him know just how emotive this issue is and the groundswell of support the public has for the workers.

“This cause needs the support of elected representatives and all the public,” he added. “The fact that this is the first strike for 30 years shows the gravity of the situation facing our health service. Healthcare professionals have serious concerns about front-line service and they are the best people to judge the severity of the impact it will have on vulnerable and ill people. They must be listened to.

“The value of the work they do for everyone in this society cannot be undervalued or undermined in any way. The value of their judgment and concern cannot be undervalued in any way,” concluded Mr Heading.