Tuesday 23 July 2019

Breakthrough in nursing dispute as three-day strike called off - but HSE warns some services may still be disrupted

HSE endeavouring to return to normal services tomorrow but 'this may not be possible in all areas'

INMO Gen Sec Phil Ni Sheaghdha pictured during the rally at Merrion Square, in support of Nurses and Midwives pay. Picture Credit:Frank McGrath
INMO Gen Sec Phil Ni Sheaghdha pictured during the rally at Merrion Square, in support of Nurses and Midwives pay. Picture Credit:Frank McGrath 9/2/19
Strike force: Nurses rally at Merrion Square, Dublin, on Saturday as they march in support of their pay demands. Photo: Frank McGrath

Eilish O'Regan, Anne-Marie Walsh, Laura Lynott and Ian Begley

A three-day national strike by 40,000 nurses - due to begin tomorrow - has been called off.

However patients, who faced cancellation of outpatient and surgery appointments tomorrow, can still expect some disruption.

The latest developments follow the Labour Court's formal intervention to resolve the pay row earlier today.

The court's recommendation, seen by the Irish Independent, says there should be an enhanced nurses practice salary scale in return for 'productivity' measures.

It says nurses with certain qualifications will be offered the opportunity to move to this new scale.

The final details are to be worked out as part of new contract discussions.

Phil Ní Sheaghdha pictured arriving to talks on the nurses' dispute at the Labour Court, Lansdowne House, Dublin. Photo: Collins
Phil Ní Sheaghdha pictured arriving to talks on the nurses' dispute at the Labour Court, Lansdowne House, Dublin. Photo: Collins

It also says that there will be an expert review of the nursing profession, and that the unions will cooperate fully with the roll out of a healthcare assistant review.   

The court's proposal also says that an agreement reached last year to address two tier pay for recent recruits to the public service will be revised for nurses.

It says that nurses and midwives will skip point two on their pay scale as well as two increments already being skipped by other public servants.

The reduced benefit to new entrants is designed to make savings to fund the new salary scale.

More information on whether industrial action will be called off in the long-term won't be known until all matters have been considered by the union and its members.

It is understood that the Psychiatric Nurses Association also plans to suspend strikes planned for the next three days. Officials from the union met the Labour Court this evening.

More than 40,000 nurses were due to strike on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week.

They had already held strikes on two days and a major protest was held in Dublin city centre on Saturday.


Reacting to the news that the strike was suspended, Health Minister Simon Harris said it was "very welcome" for patients across the country but also welcome news for nurses and midwives.

"I now look forward to the health service resuming its normal work and doing all it can to catch up," he said, in reference to medical appointments that had been cancelled amid the strikes.

Mr Harris said he hoped this will mean the end of the dispute and he respected the process that must now be followed.

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe also welcomed the acceptance of the Labour Court recommendation.

Mr Donohue said he will bring the details to Cabinet tomorrow.

He said: "I know that many other unions will be considering this issue. It is more appropriate for me to speak on that matter once I have briefed Cabinet first."

He declined to say how much it will cost and said it will not breach the public service wage agreement.

The INMO's general secretary, Phil Ni Sheaghda, said just after 6pm tonight she'd just received the Labour Court's list of recommendations.

A decision had been made to "suspend the action for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to allow time to consider the Labour Court recommendations."

Ms Ni Sheaghda said the union would be meeting on Wednesday to "give full consideration" to the Labour Court's recommendation.

The strike action which would have affected thousands of patients across Ireland, will be called off effective Tuesday morning.

"It's progress," Ms Ni Sheaghda said.  "We have a lot of work to do currently requiring negotiations."

The next step is, Ms Ni Sheaghda said, to brief the INMO's executive council to "appraise" the recommendations.

She said the recommendations presented an important progression and she thanked the Labour Court for its work, particularly over the weekend.

But she said there is "a lot in it," referring to the recommendations the union and its members would have to examine.

There were "many aspects" to take into account before briefing the union's executive council on Wednesday, she added.

These would "require deeper scrutiny," she added.

"There are parts that have to be negotiated over the next three weeks."

She explained the "focus" was now to brief members to "give them an opportunity to consider the full picture."

On Wednesday the union's executive will decide when members will be balloted.

Advice to patients

Many of the thousands of patients who faced cancellation of outpatient and surgery appointments tomorrow can expect some disruption despite the nurses suspending their strike.

A HSE spokeswoman said that nurses are expected to fully attend work tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday.

"We will endeavour to do everything we can to restore normal services.

"However, it will be appreciated that this will not be possible in all areas. We expect outpatient appointments to go ahead as planned and advise anyone with an appointment for tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday to attend.

"We are advising surgical patients that they will be contacted by their hospital if their procedure is going ahead.

"We expect that emergency departments will be extremely busy and we would ask the public to only use these services if absolutely necessary.

"Minor injury clinics will be operating as normal from tomorrow. We will update our website with further details on an ongoing basis.

"Our hospitals and community based services will make direct contact locally with patients and clients where services are restored."

Irish Independent

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