SDLP Health Spokesperson Colin McGrath has urged the British government to meet with the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and reach an agreement to pay nurses fairly.
Mr McGrath said the government needs to engage with all health staff and their unions to address concerns around pay and safe staffing.
He said nurses and other health staff had been let down by Stormont and that the British government could no longer allow the situation to drift given the impact on staff and patients.
South Down MLA Mr McGrath said:
“Our nurses and our health staff play a huge role in our society and they should not have been reduced to striking and setting up picket lines in the freezing cold. These are the people who we rely on to look after us and our loved ones throughout our lives and they deserve better than spending years fighting for fair pay and working conditions.
“We asked so much of these people during the coronavirus pandemic, many of these nurses and other health staff put themselves and their families directly in harm’s way at a very scary time for everyone, without their selfless efforts the pandemic would have been much worse and many more families could be without loved ones.
“Now we have emerged from the pandemic straight into a cost of living emergency and how have these staff been repaid? Their pleas for fair pay have fallen on deaf ears, leaving many struggling to get by, to heat their homes, feed their families and keep their cars running with bills getting ever higher. It’s hardly a surprise that morale has plummeted and staff have felt they have no other choice but to commence industrial action.
“The British government needs to sit down with the RCN and the other unions, acknowledge their concerns and reach a fair pay agreement. No health worker should be demonised for wanting to keep themselves and their patients safe and to earn enough to live a decent life after working long, backbreaking shifts in our health service. But we also need the immediate resumption of devolved government at Stormont so that reform to the conditions our health service staff work in and transformation of the service can continue. Devolved government in Scotland, where nurses are not on strike, is demonstrating how local administrations can make the difference to health service staff. It’s time for the DUP to end their boycott of government and for political leaders to get back to work."