UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Friday, 22 April 2011

UNISON Northern Ireland on Good Friday Agreement anniversary - much done, more still to do

At a packed Galway House the whole of UNISON's Northern Ireland region ‘Team Connect’ celebrated the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement but lamented the fact that after 13 years UNISON members now face a budget which attacks members and their communities like nothing ever seen before.

Recognising some of the successes achieved, even with only four years of stable government – an end to PFI, free nursing care, all NHS services returned in-house, no privatisation of education workers to name a few – the region slammed the new budget for its hidden proposals for privatisation of public services, drastic cuts and the sell off of state assets.

“Today the entire social care system is under particular threat and it is vital that all politicians are challenged now about these proposals” said Regional Secretary Patricia McKeown. Highlighting how UNISON has exposed the truth behind the McKinsey report and its proposals to end treatments, charge for health and social care, privatise care and get rid of thousands of NHS jobs she called for a massive turnout on the May Day rally in Belfast which UNISON will be leading this year on Saturday next.

Demanding the missing part of the Good Friday Agreement – a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland – Patricia said that “by failing to deliver on it, our politicians have left the people without protection. Failure to complete the Agreement is a betrayal. The current budget is a betrayal. We demand completion of the Good Friday Agreement and the resources to secure our rights”

It was reported that Equality laws and the Good Friday commitments on human rights have been ignored in the budget. “The most disadvantaged people and communities in our society will be hardest hit by a budget which widens existing inequality and deepens poverty”. Calling for the budget to be subject to Equality Impact Assessments and human rights impact assessments every Branch called for increases to protect the vulnerable from discrimination.

A key report now demonstrates that the population of Northern Ireland is suffering from the highest level of post conflict traumatic stress of any country which has been in conflict in recent times. Paying proper attention to the stress and mental health needs of a population after 40 years of conflict is an essential part of the peace process and requires investment in health rather than cuts

President Angela Lynes praised the region and its activists for their participation on the 26th March and said how impressed she was with activity she had witnessed during her visit. She re-iterated the need to ask all candidates during the current elections in Northern Ireland what steps they will take to press the UK Government to honour the Good Friday Agreement, St Andrews Agreement and the Peace Process by restoring the money to both the main Northern Ireland Budget which has been cut by £4billion and the Infrastructure Investment Budget which has lost 47% earmarked for building schools, health care facilities and other public services.

Angela said she fully supported the upcoming industrial action ballot for all members in the Region and was sure it would be a success given the strength and determination she had witnessed .

Finally calling for all activists to go back to their branches, prepare for strike action and be ready to really fight these cuts, Joint Convenors Ann Donnelly and Denis Keatings pledged the full support of the Region to members in the struggles ahead.