UNISON NI at Health Conference

UNISON Northern Ireland along with all other regions were in attendance at the 2013 Health Care Service Group Conference from Monday 22nd to Wednesday 24th at the SECC Glasgow.

The following UNISON NI delegates spoke to the conference:

Marion Ritchie, proposing Motion 13, said: “For 30 years our members across the NHS have resisted. UNISON members in Northern Ireland have been at the front of that resistance.”

“We have confronted and reversed market testing. As a consequence every single support service worker has returned in-house.”

“We have achieved this through a concerted, long term strategy of:

• Industrial action • Legal action • The constant use of equality and human rights tools • ‘No concession’ bargaining at the negotiating table • Political campaigning; and • Smart partnerships on the delivery of world class services to patients and clients”

Marion continued: “In the past year alone there has been 10% rise in the treatment of private patients in the Northern Ireland Health Service.”

“To make room for them, thousands of NHS patient have been shifted to the private sector.”

“In one year more than 1600 have been shipped across the border to the private hospital in Mullingar. A hospital owned by former and current consultants in the Northern Ireland health service.”

“The new private medicine companies have hundreds of NHS doctors on their books. The same doctors have control over the waiting lists and are generating their own private business.”

“Our members will not stand by and let this happen. We have thrown the political challenges. We are moving on the legal challenges and we are now working on the next industrial action strategy.”

“In this motion we are calling on the Service Group Executive to put the defence of the NHS, publicly delivered, at the forefront of all our strategic decisions. Bevan’s vision must be defended. I call on you to support this motion.”

Motion 13 subsequently passed.

Following this, Armagh and Dungannon’s Noel Muldoon spoke to the conference about Motion 22. “The Northern Ireland region is worried about the deepening potential for the dismantling of Agenda for Change terms and conditions and the potential weakening of our National agreements”, he said.

“Isn’t it right that we review the fact that NHS staff employers are mainly England based. Is that in our best interests?”

“We want the whole union working together to maintain our national agreement. Discussing and understanding where a retreat in one country could eventually harm us all.”

“We have to ensure the whole union recognises the need to breath new life into how we implement our devolution protocols and restart our discussions on strengthening our union across the four countries.”

Also speaking on Motion 22, the Mater Hospital’s Eoin Stewart said: “Thousands of workers depend on their employment in the health and social care service in Northern Ireland for a living. We have very little opportunity, outside of health and education, to earn a living wage.”

“One in four of our population is economically inactive, the highest statistic in Britain and Northern Ireland. Our people, even fifteen years after the Good Friday Agreement, are getting sicker and dying younger. Our people need a public health service free at the point of delivery and our workers need to keep their jobs.”

Eoin continued: “The politics of the places we live in may change but the need to maintain the cohesion of one strong united union and a capacity to act in solidarity with each other is ever more important.”

Motion 22 also passed.

Another delegate to speak was the Ulster Hospital’s Pam McKenzie who addressed the conference on the impact of Transforming Your Care on domiciliary care services in the South East, as well as the threat of privatisation.