Sunday 25 February 2018

Nurses vote for industrial action after staff crisis deal rejected

Health Minister Simon Harris Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Health Minister Simon Harris Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Anne Marie Walsh and Kevin Doyle

Health Minister Simon Harris is "deeply disappointed" nurses have voted for industrial action which could escalate to strikes.

Last night, the main nursing union threw out a Government offer to tackle an understaffing crisis and will carry out a work-to-rule from March 7.

Nurses and midwives will refuse to work overtime, cover for colleagues or be redeployed to other locations.

The union said it would begin a series of rolling stoppages if the dispute was not resolved.

It made the announcement after its Executive Council rejected a management proposal to hire 1,200 extra nurses in a bid to resolve the dispute.

The number of nurses stood at 35,835 last year, or 32pc of the workforce, compared with 39,006 in 2007, despite significant population growth and a greater number of over-65s.

In a statement, Mr Harris and Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Paschal Donohoe said they were "deeply disappointed" with the outcome.

"There will be no further comment at this time, pending a meeting of the Lansdowne Road Agreement Oversight Group [today] and where the issue of the consequences of the proposed industrial action by the INMO will be considered," the statement read.

The INMO rejected the staffing, recruitment and retention proposals put forward yesterday by the HSE, describing them as "totally inadequate".

INMO general secretary Liam Doran said workplaces had become "unsafe and dangerously overcrowded".

"All areas are understaffed and the services are at breaking point, which will require radical solutions to take the pressure off struggling nurses and midwives," he said. "We need to attract and retain nurses and midwives in sufficient numbers to provide safe care, and the current proposals contain no adequate remedies for this."

Some of the nurses' demands reportedly included Gaeltacht grant allowances, and payment for meal breaks.

Sources revealed that nurses sought a sixth premium payment for work between 6pm and 8pm to all staff, backdated to January 1 last year.

They also sought a minimum of one hour a week for every nurse to "ensure self-directed/reflective learning and development".

The INMO had complained that the process of hiring was tied up in bureaucracy.

It also said the Government side refused to guarantee that sufficient funds would be made available to mean that all Irish-trained nurses and midwives that graduated last year would get jobs.

Irish Independent

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