Home NORTHERN IRELAND NEWS Backlash as UNISON NI ‘U-turn’ overnight on British Military help statement

Backlash as UNISON NI ‘U-turn’ overnight on British Military help statement


The trade union body, UNISON, seemed to have made a dramatic u-turn on an earlier statement posted yesterday by the regional N.I. Branch, which appeared to question the Health Ministers decision to involve British military personnel to relieve pressure on NHS staff.

The original statement yesterday evening (January, 20) drew widespread condemnation from its members and the general public, attracting 3k comments and shared over a thousand times on Facebook.

In the original response from UNISON to the Heath Ministers decision, it reads: “UNISON was not consulted in relation to this issue.

“We have already engaged with the Chief Nursing Officer on this development, demanding to see information in relation to staffing pressures, which we understand to be the basis on which this request has been made. We have also asked for clarity in relation to the hospitals at which military personnel could be deployed. There must be full transparency in relation to staff pressures across our hospitals.”

Appearing to further question the decision the statement went on: “We will be writing formally to the Minister urgently seeking detailed reasons for this decision, including seeking information as to what other avenues of support have been sought, such as securing additional staffing from private sector healthcare providers. We will be demanding clarity in relation to the roles and responsibilities that military personnel may take.”

Health Minister Robin Swann had earlier announced his Departments decision to deploy than 100 medically trained military personnel across the NHS here, during which he stated: “If anybody sees this as an opportunity to make a political statement, or even target any individual within our health service, I would say ‘shame on them’ and shame on anybody that has anything to do with them.”

HOWEVER, the regional secretary Patricia Mckeown was forced to issue a second statement during the early hours of Thursday morning in which she attempted to ‘clarify’ the earlier comments made by the union stating they were ‘misunderstood’.

She wrote: “Several hours ago, UNISON posted information for members following reports in the media that military personnel are to be deployed into the health service to assist in responding to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

“We have seen the social media response to our earlier post and regrettably it has been misunderstood. We are happy to clarify and expand on it.”

Ms Mckeown when on to clarify: “To be absolutely clear UNISON has not objected to assistance from military personnel.

BUT it appears from the many negative comments received across social media to this latest ‘clarification’ statement – suggests that the damage had already been done, many calling it a ‘u-turn’ or ‘backtracking’, for its lack of sincerity and an apology.

Many members are now suggesting that they will cancel their membership to the union as a result of its comments, calling the clarification ‘little too late’.