Wednesday 23 October 2019

Hospital patients face strike tomorrow as latest talks fail

  

Contingency cover: Siptu’s Health Division Organiser Paul Bell at talks in the Workplace Relations Commission in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Contingency cover: Siptu’s Health Division Organiser Paul Bell at talks in the Workplace Relations Commission in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Anne-Marie Walsh

Patients face cancelled surgeries and drastically reduced meal services amid a 24-hour strike by up to 10,000 hospital staff, including chefs, porters, and healthcare and theatre assistants.

The stoppage will begin at 38 hospitals and healthcare facilities from 8am tomorrow, after last-ditch talks broke down in a major €19m pay row.

Beaumont Hospital, the Mater Hospital, the Rotunda, the Central Mental Hospital, St James's, Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, Cork University Hospital, and Our Lady's Hospital in Navan are among those that will be affected.

And another 20 hospitals face disruption as Siptu threatened to ramp up the dispute by balloting thousands more staff for strike action.

Senior union officials blamed the Government for squandering a chance to end the row after talks broke down at the Workplace Relations Commission yesterday.

The strike will mean the cancellation of large numbers of scope procedures and some elective inpatient work, as well as outpatient appointments in some hospitals.

It comes just months after cancer surgeries were cancelled and thousands of appointments delayed during crippling strikes by nurses earlier this year.

Siptu is demanding pay rises for members worth over €19m that it says are due under a job evaluation scheme. The union says the increases are worth from €1,500 to €3,000 each.

Leaving the failed talks, Siptu health division organiser Paul Bell claimed the Government was offering €1.2m to resolve the dispute while Siptu insisted that €16.2m is owed to members, excluding chefs.

Mr Bell said staff will provide a limited amount of contingency cover tomorrow to try to minimise the impact of the strike.

However, he said there will unfortunately be an impact at 38 hospitals and health agencies, while the union is preparing to ballot members at another 20 hospitals.

He said Siptu deferred two days of strikes to provide an opportunity to bring the two parties together.

"The gap between the Government and ourselves is so wide that it's actually difficult to see how the matter could be resolved without a really serious input from Government," he said.

He accused the department of trying to dismantle the job evaluation process.

However, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform rejected Siptu's claims.

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 say how much it was worth.

"This was a decent offer and a fair offer, at the time sufficient for Siptu to call off the Tuesday strike," she said.

She said an offer to refer the dispute to the Labour Court for a binding outcome was refused.

Other management sources claimed the union was seeking a 7pc pay rise and rejected a "significant" offer.

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

Anne-Marie Walsh

and Eilish O'Regan

Irish Independent

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