Ambulance strikes 'inevitable', warns paramedics' union
500 stage 10-hour walkouts and HSE is threatened with further industrial action unless it agrees to talks
Patients face the threat of ambulance service chaos as paramedics prepare to set new strike dates.
The leader of a union for ambulance staff who staged a walk-out yesterday warned more stoppages are "inevitable" unless health service management agrees to talks.
General Secretary of the Psychiatric Nurses Association, Peter Hughes, was speaking after 500 paramedics mounted pickets at depots around the country .
The strike lasted for 10 hours until 5pm yesterday.
He said the union's National Ambulance Service Representative Association committee will consider stepping up industrial action within days.
The paramedics are demanding the HSE recognise their union by deducting subscriptions from their salaries and engaging in talks.
It is understood a series of strikes may be announced, to take place on successive days.
Mr Hughes said he hopes Health Minister Simon Harris will ask the HSE to take up a Workplace Relations Commission invitation to talks.
"In the event that that doesn't happen, we will be left with no alternative but to announce more strike dates," he said.
He claimed some Siptu members did not pass the pickets.
The union leader also claimed some station managers relied on those on the picket lines in the event of the most serious emergencies.
Mr Hughes said the HSE was previously prepared to deduct union subscriptions, but stopped last year.
In a statement, the HSE said the National Ambulance Service only recognises Siptu, Unite and Fórsa.
It said it would not deal with "breakaway" unions as this would have a "destabilising effect" on industrial relations.
HSE Director of the National Ambulance Service, Martin Dunne, said there were no delays in services during yesterday's strike.
He said a service was provided in response to all calls that came in.
"It's been challenging, I have to admit that," he added.
At the National Ambulance Service Dublin South Central station on Davitt Road in Dublin, members of the PNA marched in the bitter cold.
They said they were getting good support from the publicMany motorists passing blew their horns as a show of unity with their cause.
"We're out here because of the HSE's failure to recognise our union within the ambulance service and to deal with it," said Brendan Flynn, PNA organiser in the East Region.
"We haven't taken ambulances off the road.
"We have provided emergency cover, we've covered any call that we've been asked to cover here today.
"We don't want to inconvenience the public. We never wanted to be here in the first place."
He said army ambulances supplied during the strike were used.
"Certainly the one in Bricins [military hospital] has been used and I believe they have been deployed in the Midlands and in Cork city," he said.