Monday 14 October 2019

'No optimism' as talks to avert hospital staff strike resume today

Siptu health division organiser Paul Bell. Photo: Collins
Siptu health division organiser Paul Bell. Photo: Collins
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

Talks to prevent 10,000 hospital staff from going on strike will resume today, but the chance of a breakthrough is said to be "very unlikely".

HSE healthcare assistants, chefs and porters at 38 hospitals around the country have served notice of a 24-hour strike on Thursday.

Staff are demanding that the Government pay wage hikes that they say are outstanding following a previous job evaluation scheme.

They claim they are due pay rises totalling €20m.

Talks between Siptu, the HSE, the Department of Health and the Department of Public Expenditure took place at the Workplace Relations Commission on Thursday but ended without resolution.

Speaking ahead of today's negotiations, Siptu health division organiser Paul Bell said his union's members have "no sense of optimism".

"The parties were asked to reflect on their positions over the weekend, but we haven't changed our position at all, and it doesn't seem they have either," he said.

"The issue ultimately lies with the Department of Public Expenditure because they're the ones who are supposed to fund the job evaluation outcome, but they have no intention of doing that.

"I can envision the strike going ahead on Thursday unless there are significant proposals made to us [this] afternoon.

"If not, it's very unlikely that this dispute can be stopped," he added.

Mr Bell said that a resolution should have been found two years ago.

He said members voted overwhelmingly - by 95pc - in favour of strike action and will not back down until they win their campaign.

"Nobody wants a strike at all, but they have to come to the table with proposals that we can work with, end of story," he said.

Among the Dublin hospitals affected if the stoppage goes ahead are Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown, Beaumont, the Mater and St James's. Cork University Hospital will also face disruption.

Staff due to take part in the action include health care assistants, maternity care assistants, laboratory aides, chefs and surgical instrument technicians.

A HSE spokesperson said previously it was disappointed that Siptu had taken a decision to take industrial action at this time. "Such action is unnecessary and will lead to unnecessary disruption to the delivery of patient and client services if it goes ahead," the spokesperson said.

The HSE called on Siptu to avail of the dispute resolution mechanism contained in the Public Service Stability Agreement.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News