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Northern Irish trade union movement supports pharmacist campaigns

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions is now formally supporting PDA campaigns for pharmacists following the PDA's participation in the ICTU 2021 Biennial Delegate Conference

Fri 16th April 2021 The PDA

Every trade union that is affiliated to a national trade union congress has opportunities to help shape the views and priorities of congress. That includes being able to propose motions at delegate conferences. Having affiliated this year, 2021 was the PDA’s first ICTU congress. PDA Regional Official, Una O’Farrell gave a speech seeking support for PDA’s campaigning priorities.

The Biennial conference, held in Belfast, ran under the tag line “No Going Back” as a reference to no return to essential workers being perceived as lesser valued as they often were in pre-pandemic life and the event was attended by over 200 delegates including union representatives from across all parts of industry and public sector in Northern Ireland.

It is the PDA Union’s status as an independent trade union that enables the organisation to be part of congress, where PDA can unite with unions from other sectors to work for issues that impact upon us all, such as equality, employment rights and justice.  The PDA can also call upon other unions to support issues specific to pharmacists, just as PDA will add support to issues which are specific to others.

The PCS, who represent workers throughout the civil service and government agencies and in many privatised former public sector employers, said this about Una’s speech: The PDA Union moved a motion demanding parity for pharmacists in the Health care sector. Powerful speech from Una O’Farrell explaining how pharmacy staff protected society throughout covid, with little support.

Following Una’s speech, the motion about parity for pharmacists was carried and so becomes the official policy of the congress.  Here is what was agreed:

Congress recognises that community pharmacies form part of the NHS and during the pandemic have become the primary access point in the community to NHS services, and have supported hospital efforts when redeployed in secondary care. Pharmacists also play a vital role in improving the health literacy of the population. Despite this, they are often overlooked for recognition of their input, falling into the gaps between medical, nursing and AHP colleagues. 

This disparity has been illuminated during the pandemic with pharmacists initially being excluded from PPE provision, health and safety risk assessments, bonus, and vaccinations for locums secured by the PDA Union campaigns. 

The Department of Health, Health and Social Care Board, and Trust employers have a duty to protect the health, safety and well-being of pharmacy workers, and to safeguard the role of the workforce in evolving specialist/additional services.

Congress calls upon the Executive Council to campaign for:

  • Parity of working conditions, professional respect and safety for pharmacists when providing services comparable to that of medical, nursing and AHP colleagues, including a zero tolerance to abuse, threat or assault in pharmacy premises building on existing PDA Union campaigns;
  • The development of a framework for safe staffing levels, flexible working, and adequate breaks for pharmacy staff to enable time to be spent on patient-facing clinical activities and for the pharmacists’ own wellbeing;
  • The Department of Health to raise public awareness and that a modern health service includes multidisciplinary teams in which the contribution of all health professionals should be valued and respected.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) is the single umbrella organisation for trade unions and is the largest civil society organisation in Northern Ireland, and on the island of Ireland. It is required, through its mission statement, to strive to achieve economic development, social cohesion and justice by upholding the values of solidarity, fairness and equality. 

The combined influence of all ICTU unions working together through congress is far greater than that of their parts, and knowing that congress is now aware of and championing the work and interests of pharmacists is one more way in which the PDA is helping create positive change for pharmacists.

NI Regional Officer, Una O’Farrell, said: “To have the motion passed, and by such a majority represents a massive opportunity for everyone employed in the pharmacy sector to be part of an important discussion which will ultimately have the effect of eliminating workplace practise and culture across the health service that is to our detriment.

As pharmacists, patient care is inevitably at the forefront of all we do, and we often feel like we fall between the gaps of other representative bodies/unions, so being part of a movement of passionate individuals and organisations, underpinned in all they do by fairness and equality, truly is a momentous moment for pharmacists in the healthcare sector, made possible by the continued efforts of the PDA.” 

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