Nurses and other health workers in Northern Ireland have commenced a second week of industrial action over unsafe staffing levels and the lack of pay parity. Similar strikes have been held in Scotland, England and Wales.

Waiting lists and waiting times have reached crisis levels for patients across Northern Ireland, in particular, partly as a result of poor pay and staffing, according to Unison.

The action marks the first time nurses have chosen to strike in The Royal College of Nursing’s 103-year history.

The strike began on 25 November and is expected to continue until Wednesday 18 December.

Striking staff include nursing, ambulance service staff, support services staff, admin, clerical and managerial staff, social services and social care staff, and professional and technical staff.

Unison regional secretary for Northern Ireland Patricia McKeown said: “Last week brave Unison members took a courageous stand in response to the growing crisis across the health and social services system. I want to pay tribute to the public for their expressions of support. They know that the workers’ cause is just. The campaign of industrial action will intensify as we continue the fight for pay justice and safe staffing levels.”

She added: “We have written to the head of the Civil Service and permanent secretaries in the Department of Health and Department of Finance in response to their joint statement on the industrial action. We have made it clear to them that we remain open to further discussions, but only on the basis that the resources needed are made available.”