Large numbers of elective operations have been cancelled today (5 October) as Northern Ireland health and social care workers commence strike action.
The one-day strike began at midnight with the Mater Hospital in North Belfast forming the first picket line.
While Unison claims emergency cover with health trusts and the ambulance service has been agreed, it acknowledges there will be "widespread disruption" as large numbers of elective operations and outpatient clinic appointments have been cancelled.
"We sincerely apologise to the public for any disruption caused on the day," said a statement from the union.
"The people of Northern Ireland did not cause this financial crisis. Health and education workers did not cause it. Patients, social services clients and school children did not cause it. They should not be the targets of the deepest cuts in our history. We are taking one day of action to help save our future.
"We are standing up to protect services and jobs. Please stand with us."
In some areas of the country, home care workers are taking industrial action for the first time.
Unison warns social care services will see transport, day centres and other facilities affected by the strike action.
However, the union said residential homes for older people and children's homes operate as part of the union's "critical cover".
"This action does not come lightly to any Unison member," said Unison's NI Regional Secretary, Patricia McKeown.
"They are sacrificing their pay in difficult times to highlight the impact of cuts on services and jobs."
Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"I am a GPN, but the work load for us increases almost on a monthly level as hospitals decide to pass secondary care back to primary care. Nurses' pay is very poor and always has been for what we do. The government have held on to the fact that as nurses we care and that has, in the past, stopped us from striking. We should not have to strike really, but now that they have done it in Ireland I am sure that other nurses from the UK will eventually follow suit. The general thought regarding GPNs is that the only difference between GPs and Practice Nurses is the PAY SCALE. We do a lot, in fact most, of a GP's job now but the pay does not reflect the responsibility of the position. What gives them extra is QOF work, great, but who does most of the QOF work, the nurses. Even more so when you only have one practice nurse" - Sandra Selby, Coventry
"The fact is that to earn 31,435 GBP, a healthcare worker has to be at least at the level of Senior Sister. The vast majority of carers earn less than 15,000 GBP per annum full time. Even a qualified nurse with a degree only earns 21,000 GBP. The vast majority of healthcare staff are also in the work place for over 13 hours at a stretch, so yes Marie backbreaking and to you obviously thankless work. Perhaps you should get your
facts right before passing judgment in future" - Paula Dunning, Derbyshire
"Not sure the public will agree with the statement 'back breaking hard labour, washing, dressing, serving, feeding, clearing, scrubbing.....for £31,453 some might think you're grossly overpaid" - Marie, Lancs
"Yes, emergency care is not affected, and cancelling elective and non-urgent operations is the only way that health workers from whatever discipline in the health service can show that these cuts are not working. The restructures of our NHS into private business mean many nurses and other allied workers are being made redundant and forced to take jobs where profit is paramount; with the loss of their NHS pensions. The NHS
pension was traditionally considered to compensate for the generally lower rates of pay and conditions offered to nurses and other allied workers in comparison to other professions where a high standard of continual education and training is needed. Many of us can remember the last Tory government and their total lack of respect towards health workers. In 1990, Kenneth Clark referred to paramedics as 'glorified taxi drivers'. This attitude is still prevalent amongst the Tory elite. After all, whilst Cameron patronises the public by 'feeling their pain', our multimillionaire government will be 'feeling the pain' all the way to Harley Street" - Name and address supplied
"About time someone stood up for nurses. Kresh Ramanah's comments highlighted the disparity of pay across rail and police force compared to nurse. What do you expect? Nursing is predominantly a female workforce. When will it ever change? Make nursing predominantly a male workforce and see the difference" - Angela Oji, Manchester
"The government have always assumed that health workers will do the 'right' thing and stand by their jobs regardless. l think it's tragic that it's come to this and l hope it shows that there is only so far people can be pushed. There will be mixed feelings over this action but how much more do we have to tolerate as governments repeatedly use the public sector to
bail them out financially?" - Julie Ferguson, Glasgow
"This government do not understand public services because public services do not make money but cost money so this goverment will try to make public services as low as possible and simply because of cost but at the same time he would like to see people having treatments done quickly on the private healthcare were people that can pay a lot of money. Ok, so I
welcome the strike because in the NHS workers at every level work hard and so they deserve a good and proper pension as well so go for – it I will join too" - Rinaldo Brandolini
"Yes, it's about time the government took notice and this is the only way they will" - Jill London, Derbyshire
"RMT members who are Tube drivers currently earn an average £46,000pa for a 35-hour week, with benefits including 29 paid holidays a year plus bank holidays and discounted train travel. That figure is potentially set to rise by £10,000 more over the four years. According to mysalary.co.uk, the average wage for police is £36,667 while a nurse takes home only £31,483, for 37.5 hours minimum of back breaking hard labour, washing, dressing, serving, feeding, clearing, scrubbing…. and no discounted or free pills for your ills. Isn't it time Bob Crow was asked to lead the RCN?" - Kresh Ramanah, London
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