Tuesday 26 March 2019

Staff morale ‘undermined’ over no-union recognition

Hundreds of ambulance workers took part in strike action.

Handout photo issued by the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) of staff from the National Ambulance Service taking part in a strike outside an ambulance dispatch centre in Dublin.
Handout photo issued by the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) of staff from the National Ambulance Service taking part in a strike outside an ambulance dispatch centre in Dublin.

By Cate McCurry, Press Association

The Health Service Executive’s refusal to recognise a union representing almost 40% of frontline paramedics is undermining morale, a union spokesman has said.

Around 500 ambulance personnel belonging to the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) took part in strike action across the country from 7am to 5pm on Friday.

The HSE said they put “robust contingency” plans in place to cope with the strike action.

In a statement, the HSE said the National Ambulance Service (NAS) has managed the situation, despite the “challenges being experienced”.

PNA spokesman, Derek Cunningham, said the day has been successful.

“There have been pickets on ambulance centres and depots up and down the country.

“There has been strong presence in Cork, Dublin and Letterkenny,” he said.

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Staff striking in Dublin outside an ambulance dispatch centre (PNA/PA)

“Members from other unions also joined them on the picket line for a period. There has also been strong support from the public.”

Explaining the background to the strike action, he added: “Paramedics were unhappy with the representation that they were getting from their existing union and approached the PNA about nine years ago with a view to establishing a branch in the ambulance service.

“They have grown progressively over nine years and represented members in industrial tribunals and disciplinary hearings and had their subscriptions deducted from their pay until last November.

“The HSE are now no longer negotiating with the PNA.”

Mr Cunningham said they are confident that PNA represents more members than any other union in the ambulance service.

“There are 500 members which accounts for around 40% of the front line paramedics,” he added.

“They are determined to achieve union recognition.

“This is undermining morale within the NAS, it’s unhelpful, it’s unprecedented, it’s unnecessary and we have been calling for the HSE to come to the negotiating table and sort this issue out.”

Further strike action has been planned for February 28 and March 1.

A spokeswoman for the HSE said they have been able to respond to the expected volume of calls.

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A National Ambulance Service logo (Niall Carson/PA)

The HSE received 259 calls between 7am and 12pm with army ambulance vehicles answering five of those calls.

“We would reiterate that the NAS is committed to maintaining positive industrial relations with all staff,” the spokeswoman added.

“Ambulance personnel are well represented through agreed industrial relations processes.

“The National Ambulance Service recognises Siptu, Unite and Forsa for staff in the service.

“In particular Siptu is the recognised trade union for frontline staff.

“Recognition of other associations or unions would undermine the positive engagement that exists and would impair good industrial relations in the National Ambulance Service.”

Press Association

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