Northern Ireland

January 18 strike day: Rallies and marches across Northern Ireland as thousands of workers to take to the streets

Crowds of union members gathered at Belfast City Hall on day two of a 48 hour strike by healthcare workers
Rallies and marches are set to take place at several locations across Northern Ireland on January 18 (Claudia Savage/PA)

Rallies and marches are set to take place across Northern Ireland next week as tens of thousands of workers stage a day of mass strike action.

Education, healthcare and public transport will be among the services impacted by the “day of action” on January 18 in response to the failure to award a pay deal in line with colleagues in Britain.

Described as the largest mass strike in a generation, public sector workers will take to the streets to “have their voices heard”.

Members of more than a dozen unions across the north, including midwives, radiographers, teachers and civil servants, are set to take part.

This week, the Royal College of Nursing said it was taking part, while public transport trade unions, Unite, GMB and SIPTU, are also onboard with bus and rail drivers, engineers, signal workers and conciliation staff taking to the picket lines.

They said a public transport strike will start at staggered times from midnight on January 18.

A massive rally that day is due to be held at Belfast City Hall from noon.

Heathcare staff will lead feeder parades to the rally from Belfast City Hospital at 11am, the Royal Victoria Hospital at 11.15am and the Mater Hospital at 11.30am.

In Derry, another will be held at Guildhall Square with feeder parades from Altnagelvin Hospital at 10.30am and Sainsbury/Fort George at 11am.

Other rallies will be held at Omagh Courthouse, Enniskillen Town Hall and Cookstown’s Main Street, all at 1pm, as well as the Diamond in Magherafelt at 11am.

NIPSA is calling on the community to join the trade union movement in “standing up for the services that matter most”.

Deputy general secretary, Patrick Mulholland said: “The very fabric that binds our communities together is being torn apart by cuts, privatisation, and neglect.

“The unions have been battling to protect our vital services, but it is time for the public to take a stand, to make their voices heard and to play their part in the fight.

“NIPSA members will strike on 18 January in defence of our services.

“Alongside that I am calling for a campaign of public disobedience and resistance against the dismantling of our public services.

“We must disrupt the narrative that normalises the erosion of our services, the privatisation of our hospitals, and the overcrowded classrooms in our schools.

“Public disobedience is not recklessness; it is an act of desperation in the face of a system that no longer listens to reason.”

The National Education Union said it will be joining the action to “draw attention to the pressing need for a just and equitable pay deal for teachers”.

Pauline Buchanan, NEU joint regional secretary, said: “The key focus of those who have the authority to offer a pay rise should be on repairing the damage done to teachers pay and living standards.

“This means a well-deserved and long overdue significant rise - now.

“We cannot recruit and retain teachers and school leaders unless we properly value them.”

Gerry Murphy, assistant general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, also said the numbers due to take part “are going to be the largest we have seen on the streets on behalf of the trade union movement in a generation”.

Chris Heaton-Harris has been urged to deliver pay awards for public sector workers
Chris Heaton-Harris has been urged to deliver pay awards for public sector workers (Liam McBurney/PA)

Unions have urged secretary of state Chris Heaton-Harris to intervene in the absence of a functioning devolved government and make the pay award.

A £3.3 billion package, conditional on the return of devolved government, was announced in December and would include money to make an outstanding pay award to public sector workers.

But with Stormont stalemate continuing, the funding has not materialised.