Saturday 24 August 2019

10,000 staff over 24 hours: everything you need to know about the upcoming hospital strikes

  • Over 10,000 hospital staff are expected to strike for 24 hours tomorrow after talks broke down
  • Taoiseach pleas to health workers to call off strike
(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Áine Kenny and John Downing

Hospital staff across the country are expected to begin their strike at 8am tomorrow, Wednesday June 26.

The strike will affect 38 hospitals across the country. Staff who are striking include porters, chefs, healthcare assistants and theatre assistants.

The strike had previously been called off, However, talks between SIPTU, the trade union representing the hospitals staff, and healthcare bosses broke down yesterday.

What services will be affected?

The HSE are expecting significant disruption to services. "While every effort will be made to minimise impact on patients, industrial action involving these essential staff will have a significant impact on services," they said.

The HSE confirmed that the outcomes of the strike will be: deferral (delay and reschedule) of some elective inpatient procedures, significant cancellation of scope procedures, reduced outpatient services, reduced laboratory services for GPs, reduced catering services for both patients and staff and reduced operating theatre activity.

SIPTU say staff will provide a limited amount of contingency cover tomorrow, in an effort minimise the impact of the strike on patients.

The HSE also confirmed this, saying they were continuing to engage with SIPTU at local hospital and healthcare facility level.

What hospitals will be affected?

Cork University Hospital

Cork University Maternity Hospital

Kerry University Hospital

Mallow General Hospital

South Infirmary Hospital Cork

South Tipperary General Hospital

Wexford General Hospital

St Lukes Hospital Carlow/Kilkenny

Mercy Hospital Cork

Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown

National Rehabilitation Hospital

Beaumont Hospital

St Ita’s Portrane

Mater Hospital

St James Hospital

St Vincent’s University Hospital

Tallaght Hospital

Our Lady’s Hospital Navan

Louth County Hospital

Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda

Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin

Rotunda Hospital

Central Mental Hospital

Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar

Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore

Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise

Naas General Hospital

Cavan General Hospital

Letterkenny University Hospital

Sligo General Hospital

Roscommon Hospital

Portiuncula Hospital Ballinasloe

Galway University Hospital

Merlin Park

Mayo University Hospital

UL Hospital Dooradoyle

UL Maternity Hospital

UL Orthopaedic Hospital Croom

Why are the strikes happening?

The strikes are happening over a pay dispute between hospital staff. SIPTU is demanding pay rises for their members that are worth over €19m in total. Individual pay increases are worth between €1,500 - €3,000 each.

The union say these rises are due under a job evaluation scheme. 

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform have rejected SIPTU's demands.

A spokesperson said the Government made a "significant" offer to move staff onto an appropriate salary scale from November this year. But she would not comment how much it was worth.

As it stands currently, talks are grid locked with the strike going ahead.

The HSE said they regret that industrial action planned by SIPTU tomorrow will affect patient and client services.

"This afternoon, the HSE is continuing to engage on contingency planning with SIPTU at local hospital and healthcare facility level. This is to ensure minimum disruption to patient services, in so far as possible, and to ensure patient dignity and that essential daily care remains in place," the HSE stated.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Simon Harris said he believes the dispute can be resolved through the talks process.

What should you do if you're affected?

According to the HSE, patients are being contacted by their local hospital or healthcare facility in the event that their scheduled procedure or service will be affected by the dispute.

"We will keep the public informed of any developments that may affect patient services through the national and local media, our social media channels and our website, www.hse.ie," the HSE said.

Government reaction

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has issued an 11th hour plea to 10,000 health service workers to call off their strike and take their case back to the Labour Court.

Under serious pressure from opposition TDs in the Dáil, Mr Varadkar insisted that Wednesday’s 24-hour stoppage by 10,000 health support workers “is not inevitable.”

Mr Varadkar urged the trade union, SIPTU, to follow the Government’s example and take up the option of binding arbitration before the Labour Court.

“The strike is not inevitable – the Labour Court is the next stop,” the Taoiseach told Sinn Féin deputy leader, Pearse Doherty, who sharply criticised the Government.

The Sinn Féin finance spokesman said patients would suffer needlessly from tomorrow’s strike by nursing aides, porters and catering workers.  A second stoppage lasting three days is due next week.

Mr Doherty said the staff were low-paid and the entry-level rate for a health care assistant was €28,000 per year.  Even with a number of increases due this year the salary would still not €30,000 per year.

“So, nobody is getting rich here – the demands of the workers are more than modest,” the Sinn Féin deputy said.

Earlier, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said a debate in the Dáil at this time last week helped stave off a strike then.  He accused the Government of not keeping faith with a re-evaluation process for the workers involved which began in 2015.

The Taoiseach said the workers involved would get three pay rises this year: the second tranche of a  2.75pc increase; an increment payment to the vast bulk of the 10,000 workers; and the first slice of an increase related to the dispute which would be paid in November.

Mr Varadkar said the dispute turned on the timing of pay rises already agreed.  The money would be paid between now and 2021.

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