Ambulance Crisis: Paramedics set to strike over roster dispute
THE Midlands has been plunged into an ambulance crisis after paramedics voted to strike over a controversial new rostering system.
Independent.ie can reveal that members of the National Ambulance Service Representative Association (NASRA) in the region are planning to take the industrial action in just two weeks time.
Des Kavanagh, General Secretary of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) - the parent group of NASRA - confirmed that members in the Midlands held a ballot over the weekend over plans to introduce the HSE's Core Rostering System in the region.
He revealed that 94% of those polled voted to strike and the union is now sending formal notice of the action to the HSE.
"From around the 19th of April I anticipate that we will have a strike," he said. “Paramedics are extremely angry and have insisted on balloting for strike.
“Conditions at the moment are very difficult and the imposition of Core Rostering is just a bridge too far.”
The action will affect counties Offaly, Longford, Laois and Westmeath.
Mr Kavanagh said the dispute relates to the introduction of a Core Rostering System. The new scheme will change the way rosters are managed within the National Ambulance Service (NAS).
Union Chief Mr Kavanagh claims that this will result in paramedics who, up to now, have known their rosters for upcoming weeks being left in a position where their schedule can be changed at the last minute.
He added that this dispute has nothing to do with pay conditions: “There is a very real concern among paramedics that it will actually result in poorer response times.”
Mr Kavanagh claimed that the Core Rostering allows management to change a paramedic's shift at just 24-hours notice.
Holidays and annual leave can also be cancelled at a month’s notice - he said.
“This leaves them vulnerable to losing out on holidays they have already booked and paid for.”
Independent.ie has learned that a letter of no-confidence has been sent by NASRA members in the Midlands to the NAS.
There are currently 118 paramedics in the Midlands counties and 75 of these are NASRA members. The remainder are attached to Siptu and other unions.
Mr Kavanagh said they are open to talks but insisted that industrial action will take place if the rostering is introduced.
Unlike gardai and fire officers, paramedics are legally permitted to strike.
Insiders claim that such an action would see paramedics taking to a picket line and non-NASRA affiliated members would be highly unlikely to cross such a line.
This could force the NAS to employ private ambulances to cover the region.
One industry insider said this strike action is now likely to break out across the country where management are currently trying to roll-out the Core Rostering system.
A spokesman for the HSE/NAS insisted that the body has no plans to stop the scheme. “The NAS is continuing to roll out the Core rostering system in the Midlands region and has engaged in discussions and briefings with both the recognised trade unions and all staff.”