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Hospital chaos averted as unions call off pay strike

Major patient disruption was averted yesterday after a strike over pay cuts, due to start at the Mater Private hospitals in Dublin and Limerick today, was called off.

Staff will have their pay restored from today, and will not go on strike as planned, but key issues remain to be resolved in the dispute.

The reprieve, meanwhile, came too late for many patients, who had surgery and treatments cancelled.

But the hospital said it was hopeful of rescheduling these in the next week or two.

The strike was suspended after a hearing at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC), at which the core issue of pay cuts was not resolved.

Unions and management will now enter into further talks at the LRC over the next three weeks. Staff, who had their pay cut by up to 6pc, will have their wages restored for the duration of the talks.

A spokesman for the Mater Private said pay deductions already made for January would only be restored if agreement was reached at the LRC.

The two unions representing staff, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and SIPTU, said they agreed to enter a process of dialogue with management "on the other outstanding issues". But it is understood that pay is the crunch issue in the dispute.

It was agreed yesterday that the hospital would provide fully verified financial information to an independent party as part of the process. Issues that remain unresolved at the end of the LRC talks will be referred to the Labour Court.

Meanwhile, strike notice has been served on the Bon Secours group from Monday, February 8, and will be served shortly on the Mount Carmel group over what unions said were "unilateral reductions in pay imposed on staff".

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