One hundred and ten British Army medics have been deployed to Northern Ireland hospitals to assist with the Covid crisis, operating as regular NHS staff. In the aftermath of this announcement, many Unison members and branches reacted angrily to a statement issued by the leadership of their union, which they perceived to be in opposition to the use of army medical staff in the battle against the pandemic. The Unison leadership statement was written without forethought or sensitivity on an issue that has the potential, if mishandled, to create sectarian tensions and divisions amongst their membership.
Almost 12 months have passed since health unions in Northern Ireland began negotiations on pay, terms and conditions. These discussions began as a result of the acceptance of the Agenda for Change Refresh Agreement by health unions in England and Wales in 2018.