Patients face tense wait on bid to stop nurses striking
Patients and hospitals will have to wait until tomorrow to find out if next week's threatened work-to-rule by nurses will go ahead.
The executive council of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), whose 30,000 members are due to begin the action on Tuesday, will meet tomorrow afternoon to make a decision on the issue.
It follows the resumption of talks on the dispute that began at the Workplace Relations Commission yesterday.
The union is demanding incentives to ease the crisis in the recruitment and retention of nurses.
However, the oversight body on the Lansdowne Road Agreement has warned that industrial action would lead to a breach of the terms of the deal.
Some issues may have to be referred to the Labour Court for binding arbitration.
This would have implications for the €1,000 pay increase which nurses, along with other public services, are due to receive in April.
Health Minister Simon Harris said yesterday he hoped progress will be made in the talks but he also warned that there is "no new pot of money" for pay increases.
"If we have to find additional resources for pay measures above and beyond the Lansdowne Road Agreement measures agreed by Government, there is no new pot of money," he said.
It is estimated that the nurses' demands - which include payments for meal breaks, the return of the twilight allowance and the restoration of other allowances - would cost around €120m.
INMO general secretary Liam Doran said yesterday the difficulties facing the recruitment and retention of nurses amount to a "critical situation" and the union did not want to be in dispute.
Hospitals were continuing to draw up contingency plans yesterday in advance of the threatened action.
If the action goes ahead patients will be contacted about cancellations of surgery and other procedures from Monday.
The work-to-rule will mean nurses would refuse to move to replace shortages in various parts of the hospital and remain in their own wards or departments. This would lead to bed closures in order to ensure safety for patients.