Thousands of health workers struck for 24 hours in Northern Ireland today, Wednesday, in a battle against cuts.
In some cases, hundreds of nurses joined mass pickets outside their hospitals, alongside other workers.
“The turnout on picket lines at Belfast City hospital, where I work, was absolutely fantastic—it blew me away,” Tommy Steenson, chair of Belfast City Hospital Unison union, told Socialist Worker.
“We’ve got seven entrances to our hospital. By 6am we had 200 people on one picket line and around 500, mainly nurses, on the main gate.
“Despite the pouring rain, we still had hundreds picketing at 4.30pm when the evening shifts normally arrive.”
Tommy says that the strike was so effective that in many sections, such as catering, only managers were working.
“We haven’t had a strike in years, maybe decades, so we were all a little nervous. But in the end we brought the hospital to a complete standstill,” he says.
“The key to this is getting out and meeting the members face to face, and then being prepared to lead by example. Our reps and stewards have done a fantastic job.”
The strike has helped Unison recruit over 50 new members last week, and has prepared workers for further action on 30 November. On that day they will join millions of others in a fight to defend their pensions.
“As a union, today’s action has proved we can deliver,” says Tommy. “And, I don’t think this will be the last strike. People have got a taste for this now.”