AP NEWS

Northern Irish nurses strike over pay, staffing levels

December 18, 2019 GMT
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An ambulance beeping its horn in support as it passes a union picket line, outside the Belfast Royal Hospital as nurses across Northern Ireland take part in a 12-hour strike over pay, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Wednesday Dec. 18, 2019. The 12-hour walkout by nurses and healthcare workers will see them leave patient bedsides, without effecting critical care patients, in a dispute over pay and patient safety. (Liam McBurney/PA via AP)
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An ambulance beeping its horn in support as it passes a union picket line, outside the Belfast Royal Hospital as nurses across Northern Ireland take part in a 12-hour strike over pay, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Wednesday Dec. 18, 2019. The 12-hour walkout by nurses and healthcare workers will see them leave patient bedsides, without effecting critical care patients, in a dispute over pay and patient safety. (Liam McBurney/PA via AP)

LONDON (AP) — Nurses in Northern Ireland walked off the job Wednesday in outrage over poor staffing and pay that lags in comparison to their counterparts in England and Wales.

Picket lines formed outside hospitals as men and women waved signs including “Safe Staffing Saves Lives,” and “Fair Pay Now.″ Passing ambulances let sirens wail in solidarity. Cars honked horns.

“We don’t do this lightly — it is the first time we have gone on strike in 103 years,″ said Donna Kinnair, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing. ”But I am here because I think it is important that care is delivered to our patients in Northern Ireland.”

Some 9,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing went on strike and were supported by other healthcare workers. That forced the cancellation of routine appointments and delays to ambulance services.

The situation of the nurses has been complicated by the collapse of the power-sharing government in Northern Ireland. Since no government has been in place for nearly three years, there are no ministers in place to make spending decisions — such as whether to grant the pay demands of the nurses or use extra cash to reduce Northern Ireland’s long waiting lists for treatment.