Belfast is set to grind to a standstill tomorrow, Friday, as thousands of public sector workers, including health workers, teachers, bus drivers and civil servants, go on strike.
Most schools will be closed and all buses and trains cancelled, while many staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital will take part in the 24-hour strike. Unison Joint Branch Secretary at the RVH Catherine Harte said: “Friday’s strike is about the cuts coming from the Department of Health, the cuts to services, the additional workloads, the stress to staff, the cuts to schools and education – it’s never-ending.
“Waiting lists are getting longer, even just for an initial consultation, and during that time an underlying condition is getting worse, particularly if you are elderly.
“The queues are getting longer and the service is getting poorer and Friday is our chance to have our voices heard. We held a Unison meeting among the healthcare workers on Monday and it was standing room only such is people’s need to say enough is enough.”
Mary Cahillane, a member of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation Executive, said she expected most local schools will be closed on Friday.
“We are looking in this year alone at between 5,000 and 6,000 teachers losing their jobs and 1,000 classroom assistants,” she said. “This will mean much bigger class sizes and pupils with special needs or who need special assistance not getting the support they need. The pupils will suffer and this will have devastating consequences for the future.
“Teachers cannot deliver the high quality teaching expected of them under those circumstances.”
Meanwhile, Translink has cancelled all scheduled bus and train services due to strike action by the Unite and GMB trade unions. Staff will join pickets before making their way to the city centre for a planned rally.
Michael Dornan, Chair of Unite’s Bus Committee, is urging local people to get behind the staff on their 24-hour walk-out. “People must remember that this one day is to prevent further cuts to services,” he said. “Staff have to take action.”