Health staff facing disciplinary action if they go on strike
THE HSE will invite unions to emergency talks today in a desperate bid to minimise the impact on services as it faces the threat of crippling strikes.
Sources revealed it will try to schedule a meeting with unions to draw up contingency plans as a sustained campaign of industrial action over pay cuts looms from Monday week.
The invitation will be discussed at a high-level meeting of health sector managers this morning as the Irish Nurses Organisation becomes the latest public sector union to serve notice of industrial action today.
Work stoppages may be inevitable after HSE CEO Professor Brendan Drumm yesterday warned workers they face disciplinary action if their refusal to carry out instructions could put patients at risk.
He said the threat of industrial action could have a massive effect on services. His stance may trigger clashes with unions who have made a solidarity pact to strike if members are "victimised" by management.
The campaign will not begin with strikes, which are most likely to happen next month when the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) Public Services Committee escalates action. The campaign will begin with non-cooperation by workers, including a refusal to accept reforms or cover vacancies due to an embargo on recruitment, as well as a ban on overtime that could drastically affect psychiatric services. Although the health campaign begins on January 25, industrial action across the wider public service over pay cuts of 5pc to 15pc will start next week.
The Civil, Public and Services Union was the first union to serve notice of industrial action last Tuesday when it told employers it would start a work to rule from next week. Health unions are serving notice on the HSE, with SIPTU expected to do so within days. "If Prof Drumm wants to antagonise staff he's going the right way about it," said the General Secretary of the INO Liam Doran.
"Workers have taken a second pay hit in nine months and are 3,000 posts down and will be another 3,000 next year, so there is a line in the sand."
It is unclear whether the Psychiatric Nurses Association, which is not an ICTU affiliate, will support the overtime ban as it would mean its members taking a significant hit in pay.
It is meeting with ICTU unions next week to discuss how it will back the campaign.
Instructions sent by IMPACT to members in health services this week warns that refusal to reject management requests will be taken very seriously. "Breaches of this instruction will be treated as equivalent to strike breaking and the use of non-union labour to undermine the effectiveness of the action will result in immediate further action," it said. "Employers have been informed that such an escalation of action may take place without further warning."
It said members should refuse to co-operate with management on numerous proposals including plans to close hospitals and wards.