Wednesday 20 February 2019

Ambulance workers may strike again over union recognition

500 members of the PNA trade union held a 10-hour strike on Tuesday to highlight their plight.

Some of the 500 ambulance staff from the Psychiatric Nurses Association, who are staging a 10-hour strike, take part in a picket outside an ambulance station on Dublin’s Davitt Road in a dispute over union recognition (Niall Carson/PA Wire)
Some of the 500 ambulance staff from the Psychiatric Nurses Association, who are staging a 10-hour strike, take part in a picket outside an ambulance station on Dublin’s Davitt Road in a dispute over union recognition (Niall Carson/PA Wire)

By Michelle Devane, Press Association  

Up to 500 ambulance workers have staged a ten-hour strike in protest over their right to union membership.

The members of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) picketed across the country on Tuesday to highlight their plight to be represented by the union of their choice. They have warned they will continue to fight for their rights.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has refused to recognise the PNA and their ambulance personnel’s branch National Ambulance Service Representative Association as representatives of the staff.

PNA General Secretary Peter Hughes said 500 of their ambulance workers were being denied the right to chose their own union.

ipanews_69d797a8-7024-4280-ade0-0826575c9c91_embedded240764778
Ambulance staff from the Psychiatric Nurses Association take part in a picket outside an ambulance station on Dublin’s Davitt Road in a dispute over union recognition (Niall Carson/PA)

The trade union is calling on Health Minister Simon Harris to intervene in the dispute.

Mr Hughes said: “We wrote to the Minister for Health last week asking him to personally intervene, insist that the HSE come to the WRC and discuss the issue.

“He has said in the Dail that he prefers dialogue to dispute. We’re looking for dialogue. We’re looking to address this.

“No disrupts are resolved without negotiations…let’s start engaging on the issue. ”

Mr Hughes said the HSE stopped deducting union subscriptions last January and he believes it was done to stymie the growth of the branch.

He added members were “being denied due process and fair procedures”.

Paramedic supervisor Brendan Flynn, who picketed on Davitt Road in Dublin on Tuesday, said it was very rare for ambulance workers to strike and it was not something they wanted to do.

But Mr Flynn said he couldn’t understand why the HSE was refusing to recognise his union with the ambulance service.

“The PNA is a recognised union within the HSE and we can’t understand that they wouldn’t recognise us because we also work for the HSE. There are a number of unions within the HSE who represent multi-disciplines and we don’t see why the PNA can’t do the same thing for us,” he said.

He said the HSE had refused to engage with them and union members and that they had been “forced” into the action.

“This is not what the ambulance service is all about and it’s certainly not where we’d like to be putting our energies,” he said.

The PNA represents about 500 of the 1,800 National Ambulance Service staff. The majority of the staff are members of the SIPTU trade union.

Contingency cover for life-threatening, critical and humanitarian cases were in operation during the strike.

Press Association

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section