Saturday 24 August 2019

Government to table proposals to bring nurses' pay in line with other professionals in bid to avoid strikes, union claims

Frustration: INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha. Photo: PA
Frustration: INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha. Photo: PA

Anne-Marie Walsh

THE government is set to table proposals to bring nurses’ pay in line with other professionals on Monday in a last ditch bid to avoid strikes, a union has claimed.

Speaking after a meeting with health sector management, General Secretary of the Psychiatric Nurses Association, Peter Hughes, said that overtime and spending on agency staff will be used too offset the cost of the measures.

But Mr Hughes said he was very disappointed that no meaningful proposals were tabled at talks with health department officials today to avert industrial action.

Nurses plan a 24-hour strike on January 30, to be followed by five other dates next month.

The want wage hikes in the region of 12pc to put their pay on a par with other healthcare staff including radiographers, and claim there is a recruitment and retention crisis.

But the Taoiseach and government ministers are adamant an increase would breach the current public sector pay deal.

They have warned they will not improve on a €20m offer for nurses in specialised grades – but the nursing unions indicated that there may soon be a better proposal on the table.

“At the outset the employer acknowledged the seriousness of the situation,” said Mr Hughes.

“However, we’re very disappointed that there were no meaningful proposals. The employers are going off and coming back to us on Monday and they have promised that they will come with proposals in relation to parity with therapy grades using overtime and agency costs, the extreme cost of overtime and agency, to offset any parity.”

General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said that the HSE and Department of Health has confirmed that they will have firm proposals on Monday. However, she said strike preparations will continue.

“We keep reminding them that the clock is ticking, she said. “There is a national dispute pending in 14 days times.”

She said there is general agreement that the cost savings that are required are very visible from agency spend, the costs associated with incorrectly staffing wards, and overtime costs.

“And they have agreed that these matters must be addressed and are now going back to their principals to have further discussions,” she said.

“We will be here on Monday and firm proposals will be required. I think it is very disappointing that 14 days out from a strike that we have to once again point out where the employer can save money and they agree with us, that there are massive savings to be made within the health service, but now they have to go back to their principals.”

The unions are due to meet HSE officials to discuss contingency plans to be adopted during the strikes tomorrow.

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