Nursing chiefs tell members to reject reform bid
THE health service will be spared more industrial action by up to 40,000 nurses even if they vote against the pay and reform deal.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives' Organisation is urging its members to reject the deal -- but has ruled out stepping up industrial action in response to a 'No' vote.
However, a rejection of the proposed deal -- which includes key elements such as staff redeployment -- will deliver a major setback to the Health Service Executive (HSE), which was relying on reforms and changed work practices to enable it meet its budget this year.
It is feared that if the HSE fails to achieve its savings as a result of a rejection by all health unions the knock-on effect could see a curtailment of some services later in the year.
Outlining his union's recommendation, general secretary Liam Doran said the central planks of the deal, which unions have to sign up to if there are to be no more pay cuts, were "offensive" and a threat to patient safety.
He said that after consulting widely in recent weeks with members, the decision to reject it was unanimous for several reasons, including the onus on them to accept the current staff moratorium.
That would lead to another 6,000 posts lost from the public health service in the next three years.
The unions will now put the matter to ballot at the end of next month, after setting out their alternatives to the proposed deal in a formula to be drawn up at its annual delegate conference.
"What became clear was a deep mistrust of the Health Service Executive by members," he added.
Already 1,900 nursing and midwifery jobs have been lost through non-replacement of staff.
He said the union will be advising members that a reversal of pay cuts -- which remains its objective -- is not achievable this year, regardless of whether there is an agreement or not.
Asked if the union would continue to reject the deal if it was accepted through the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, he said that in that case they would abide by whatever decision was taken.
Mr Doran said the unions would still be prepared to agree to "radical changes" to the public health service but only in a manner which maintains safety, maximises access and is effective and cost efficient.
The union insisted that many of its members were co-operating with redeployment, and pointed to the reorganisation of cancer services as an example.
"The moratorium to us is a huge issue -- the blanket refusal to fill posts which managers deem necessary has to change," he stressed.
Under the proposed deal, nurses' premium payments are retained and they could also retire based on their salary before the cuts this year and next. He said anyone retiring this year would not be disadvantaged.