NURSES have voted for industrial action up to and including a strike at a union conference today with one delegate comparing the Government to the Taliban.
Separately, health sector workers within the Impact trade union voted to ballot for industrial action if changes to pay and conditions are imposed.
So many of the 350 at the Mount Errigal Hotel wanted to speak out that time for the motion had to be extended.
Nurse Sandra Morton got a standing ovation when she told the conference that the Government had done everything “short of putting burkas on and shooting us at the goalposts.”
The Dublin South West delegate claimed every hospital in the country was now ‘a mid-Staffordshire’ due to staff cutbacks, referring to the inquiry at the English hospital where a report found 1,200 ‘needless deaths’ between 2005 and 2009.
“Every hospital in this country is a mid-Staffordshire and the people of Ireland need to be very very afraid,” said Ms Morton.
Meanwhile, delegates at the health and welfare divisional conference in Portlaoise voted to ballot for strike action if their working week was increased and if pay cuts were imposed. The conference also passed a motion calling on the union to defend premium pay for members stating that it would not negotiate on the issue. All three motions were passed overwhelmingly by delegates.
Louise O'Donnell, national secretary of the health and welfare division, warned that members would strike if the current agreement was changed to their detriment.
"If there is any diminution of what was in Croke Park II we will move straight to ballot, if there is any attempt to legislate we will move straight to ballot. It was a very difficult set of negotiations, it was a very difficult balloting process and I think to change that in any way that would negatively effect and impact would actually cause huge consternation for us and would force our people to take industrial action," she added.
Warning that members were "very serious" about industrial action, Ms O'Donnell said members in the health sector were particularly concerned.
"People are very annoyed. People have been carrying the extra workload so it wouldn't take much for people to down tools at this stage," she said.
Impact was one of five unions who voted in favour of the Croke Park II agreement. The union voted 56pc for the deal with 44pc of members against
At the INMO conference, another delegate from the Taoiseach’s home town of Castlebar, Patricia Wall, said nurses had had enough of salary cuts and the loss of family-friendly conditions.
She said nurses felt like they were being “cast to play a role in Angela’s Ashes.”
Wrapping up the debate INMO General Secretary Liam Doran, said nurses should not have to apologise for having a job in Ireland.
“We need to be clear that choices are being made by Government and it has made a choice to not tax people earning more than €100,000 – they wanted to protect their friends, their compatriots and the elite – even though it was the right thing to do,” he said.
Mr Doran said that his union had to continue talks with the LRC “even if this is just an exercise so the Government can say we consulted you again.”
He also attacked unions which supported Croke Park II, adding: “Proud of bringing about the No vote and I won’t apologise for telling the truth.
“We were telling the truth and we were telling it exactly like it is.
“There is no-one going on strike unless the Government votes to cut your pay.”
The motion, which also called for the union to work with other frontline unions, was passed unanimously.
The health sector workers in Portlaoise were also told that Health Minister James Reilly had failed to meet 18 deadlines out of 20 in the first six months of the health reform programme. A 'scorecard' produced by Impact said that 12 of the 20 actions promised by the end of March 2013 have yet to be implemented. Another six came late, while just two were implemented on time, according to the union.
Earlier the conference heard from general secretary Shay Cody that the union was preparing a "coordinated response" which includes the threat of industrial action if changes to pay and working conditions go beyond the agreed Croke Park II measures.
Mr Cody said the union had told Labour Relations Commission (LRC) chief executive Kieran Mulvey it would be "totally unacceptable" if the existing proposals were changed to worsen the situation for its members.
"We have put forward suggestions that we believe would benefit Impact members and others. However, we will not accept any outcome that worsens the proposals that were reluctantly accepted by our members. In this uncertain environment, where the current Croke Park agreement is likely to collapse, we must be prepared to respond in the event of hostile management actions at national or local level, whether these actions are planned or arise almost by accident," he added.