Healthcare workers protest over attacks on pay and working conditions

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Last Wednesday workers representing all the main trade unions organised token lunchtime protests outside all the main hospitals in Northern Ireland including the RVH and Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry. These protests comes after the Tory led government in Westminster succeeded in passing its Health and Social Care bill through the houses of parliament on the 20thMarch.  The bill marks the greatest shake up of the NHS since 1948 continuing the pattern of previous administrations in terms of cuts to essential services, staff and privatisation including the outsourcing of services to private companies subsidised by the tax-payer.

This is on top of the continuing implementation of £823 million of vicious cuts in jobs and services throughout the health care system being imposed by the Stormont regime as reported in a previous article by Workers Solidarity including the tragic death of a 86 year old woman with a suspected stroke who had waited more than 30 hours on a trolley for treatment.

On Wednesday [March 21], the Irish News reported that Stormont health minister and creationist Poots is currently mulling over aggressive proposals to cut £78 million from the health service over the next 12 months. Among the cost-saving measures being proposed are the loss of 500 nursing jobs, the closure of hospital beds and wards, the reduction of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and dialysis treatment slots, and a ban on replacing staff who leave over the next year.

These token protests mark a significant climbdown since the public sector strike last November in which hundreds of thousands working people participated in. Instead of intensifying strike action and class conflict, widening the struggle to include everyone who is facing the brunt of these vicious austerity measures, the trade union leadership has once again been proved that it is more interested in collaboration with our class enemies, demobilising and defusing our anger; rather than organising a real fightback.

We have to find new ways of organising against the increasingly savage attacks by the bosses and government. We have to do that as a priority and as a matter of urgency because the alternative is even crazier. We cannot rely on the union leaderships to do this, we have to rely on ourselves by organising and agitating in our workplaces’ and at a community level.

WORDS: Sean Matthews

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