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Northern Ireland Grinds to a Halt as Public Sector Workers, Including Health Professionals, Stage Strike

Belfast: In a monumental move, 170,000 public sector workers, encompassing health workers, brought Northern Ireland to a standstill on Thursday in a widespread strike protesting pay disparities. Marked as the most significant strike in a century, members from 17 trade unions, spanning roles such as nurses, midwives, bus and train drivers, teachers, and ambulance staff, participated in the 24-hour strike.

Despite the considerable impact of the strike, a resolution to the ongoing pay dispute remains elusive. The internal discord and unyielding stances among involved parties in the country are impeding progress. The strike, coinciding with the reopening of schools, adverse weather conditions, and disruptions to public transport, has paralysed the nation.

Approximately 150,000 employees are currently on strike, advocating for increased wages. The health service sector is particularly hard-hit, causing disruptions acknowledged by the health department.

In a social media message, the department stated that the health and social care sectors has been severely affected, warning of potential delays for those seeking medical treatment.

The UK government has pledged a €3.5 billion economic package, earmarked for the restoration of government in Belfast and settling workers’ salary arrears. However, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) insists that this aid is contingent on reinstating the new administration. The DUP further accuses the UK government of leveraging political pressure to address health workers’ salary concerns separately.

Simultaneously, health workers engaged in mass protests, marching to key locations such as Stormont, the NIO headquarters in Belfast, City Hall, the Royal Victoria and City Hospitals, and CityCentres. Participants emphasized that the strike will persist until equitable wages are secured. While unions have appealed for intervention to address wage increases, there appears to be resistance from authorities, leaving the situation in limbo.

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