Hope that pay talks can avert strikes at hospitals
STRIKE action at seven hospitals could be called off if a new round of talks between the Government and unions make progress.
About 500 lower-paid staff in the Dublin hospitals -- including porters, catering personnel, security, healthcare assistants and supervisors -- are to go on strike from 1am on Wednesday, April 7, until 1am on Friday, April 9.
But SIPTU chief Jack O'Connor last night signalled that the strike could be called off if the talks -- which get under way at the Labour Relations Commission this afternoon -- move in the right direction.
"There is a period of time between now and the date on which the notice for that expires. You're talking about almost four weeks, that affords an opportunity to see if a meeting of minds can be arrived at in these talks," Mr O'Connor said.
"That, incidentally, is why such a long period of notice was served."
If the talks were moving towards the "basis for agreement", union leaders would then consult with their members.
Today's resumption of talks represents a significant break-through after negotiations broke down between the Government and unions just ahead of the December Budget.
The public hospitals facing strike action are St James's, St Vincent's, Connolly Memorial, the Mater, Beaumont, Tallaght and St Colmcille's.
Meanwhile, staff at Mount Carmel Hospital in Dublin will protest for a second day today over pay cuts.
Strike notice has been served on behalf of SIPTU, IMPACT and the MLSA. It will involve radiographers, laboratory scientists, pharmacy, nursing, clerical/admin and grounds staff, as well as support grades.
The director of the group that represents Irish employers, Brendan McGinty, welcomed Mr O'Connor's "indication" on the possibility of calling off the planned strike action.
"But, actually, what I think we need is more than that. There has been a war of attrition going on for some weeks -- low grade industrial action which is disruptive in its own way," he said.
All threats of strike action should be removed so that there can be "meaningful talks", the IBEC director added.
However, Finbar Geaney, a candidate for president of the teachers' union the TUI, claimed restarting talks represented a "serious betrayal" of ordinary trade union members.
"The TUI must make clear that it will have no part in any talks that have as their objective the diminution of public services or the worsening of the working conditions of its members. This has been TUI policy since its Annual Congress last year," he said.
Meanwhile, general secretary of the Civil, Public and Services Union (CPSU) Blair Horan denied that a ban on overtime is an escalation of the dispute over the €1bn pay cut.
Their action means there will be a ban on working extra hours from this morning.
His union, representing 13,000 lower-paid public servants, and the Public Service Executive Union (PSEU) will also refuse to answer phones in government departments this afternoon.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions Public Services Committee has offered major public sector reforms. In return, it will accept a reversal of the pay cut "over time".