Mrs Long was speaking after sending a letter to Julian Smith, also signed by leaders of the four other main parties. It asks Mr Smith to intervene in the crisis and restore pay parity independent of the ongoing talks process.
“There is rightly frustration across the community at the failure to resolve the pay dispute affecting workers in the health service. However, most parties have made clear their support for doing just that,” she said.
“There is also understandable concern at the implications for patient care and safety of tomorrow’s planned strike action, despite the planning with unions and management. It comes at a time when an already stretched service is facing further winter pressures.
“Alliance has previously written to the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health confirming in any future Executive we would support the restoration of pay parity and asked other parties to do so.
“Today’s letter to the Secretary of State, which is also signed by the leaders of the four other main parties, makes clear any Finance and Health Ministers in an Executive formed before January 13 would restore pay parity.
“All parties backing that pledge should give Julian Smith MP the required political cover to take action independently of the talks process. Given the range of issues involved, it would be neither fair nor right to make resolution of the pay dispute subject to a positive outcome to talks.
“We want the Secretary of State and the Department to provide the necessary assurance to health workers so tomorrow’s strike action can be averted and ensure a fair wage is paid to those who deserve it. Such a move would be hugely welcomed by patients and healthcare workers alike.”
The text of the letter to Secretary of State Julian Smith –
RE: PAY PARITY FOR HEALTH WORKERS
We the undersigned wish to make clear our collective frustration at the failure to resolve the pay dispute affecting workers in the Health Service, and our collective support for the restoration of pay parity.
In our view this statement, making clear that any Health and Finance Ministers in any future Northern Ireland Executive formed before 13 January 2020 would restore pay parity, provides cover for you as Secretary of State to intervene to ensure that pay parity is restored independently of the ongoing talks to restore the Executive.
Given the range of issues involved it would be neither fair nor right to make resolution of this pay dispute, affecting not only workers but also patients, subject to separate ongoing talks aimed at restoring the devolved institutions.
Therefore, we collectively urge you to state that you now have the flexibility to intervene and to state clearly and publicly that, regardless of the position on 13 January 2020, pay parity will be restored and the pay dispute thus resolved.
This will provide assurance both to health workers about how much they are valued and also to patients awaiting vital treatment that there will be no further strike action.
Naomi Long MEP, Leader of the Alliance Party
Colum Eastwood MP, Leader of the SDLP
Steve Aiken OBE MLA, Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party
Michelle O’Neill MLA, Leas Uachtarán Shinn Féin
Rt Hon Arlene Foster MLA, Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party