Nurses who went on strike to be reimbursed lost wages

By Michael McHugh and Rebecca Black, PA

Three days’ pay taken from striking health service workers in Northern Ireland will be reinstated, Stormont’s Deputy First Minister said.

Nurses left hospital bedsides in a campaign for pay parity with other parts of the UK and what unions said were safer staffing levels.

They have been on the front line of the response to the Covid-19 outbreak which is beginning to spread rapidly across the region.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said staff walked out in January in a bid to create a health service able to respond to a crisis like the coronavirus.

She added: “We hope that sends out a clear message in terms of our recognition of those workers who work on our behalf.”

First Minister Arlene Foster said the abuse of shopworkers was “disgusting”.

She praised front line healthcare workers, teachers stepping forward to look after the children of key workers, home bakeries, restaurants and shop workers.

“I was told today in one of my local chemist shops that workers were being abused because they didn’t have hand sanitisers available,” she said.

“Now I have to say these abusers need to be called out, the behaviour is disgusting. I will not stand for it and I will call out selfishness and abusive behaviour whenever I see it.”

Conflicting messages about school closures next week have angered some parents.

Education minister Peter Weir said all schools should be prepared to cater for key workers’ children from Monday.

Closures were previously announced across the UK.

A total of nine new cases of Covid-19 were revealed on Friday in Northern Ireland, the overall tally is 86.