Paramedics to give week's notice of 24-hour strike action as dispute escalates
Patients face the threat of disruption as paramedics plan to give as little notice as possible of two 24-hour strikes, set to be held within weeks.
Ambulance services will be hit as 500 members of the National Ambulance Service Representative Association (Nasra) walk off the job later this month.
The paramedics - who protested outside the Dáil yesterday - have said a full-day stoppage will take place in the week beginning May 27, but have not announced the date.
They gave two or three weeks' notice to allow for contingency planning ahead of previous strikes.
But this time, they are only planning to give the minimum legal requirement of a week's notice to the HSE.
The paramedics also plan to mount pickets on another date early next month in the long-running row over union recognition. A date for that strike in the week beginning June 3 has not been revealed either.
"The HSE is not co-operating, so the ambulance personnel will only give one week's notice," said a spokesperson.
"It is a deliberate tactic in response to the fact that the HSE has consistently refused to engage."
The paramedics are upping the ante in their campaign.
They are demanding that the HSE recognises their union, the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA). They have held a series of 12-hour stoppages and army ambulance crews helped shore up services.
The dispute has escalated as health officials have refused to sit down for talks because they will not recognise the union.
The HSE has said it recognises Siptu as the main paramedic union.
A spokesperson said recognition of other associations or unions would "undermine the positive engagement that exists and would impair good industrial relations in the national ambulance service".
A spokesperson at the Department of Health said it was regrettable that the PNA/Nasra had taken a decision to escalate their dispute.
"The HSE will continue to ensure patient safety by way of robust contingency planning," she said.
PNA general secretary Peter Hughes accused the HSE of allowing the dispute to fester and drag on for over a year.
Ambulance branch chairwoman Sinead McGrath said the wider trade union movement should "wake up" to the fundamental wrong being done to its members.
"As our industrial action moves in the next few weeks to 24-hour strikes, the HSE is playing a dangerous game in trying to force hundreds of frontline ambulance personnel and paramedics into trade unions that they do not want to be members of," she said.
Meanwhile, hospital support staff will announce the result of a ballot for strike action on Friday. The Siptu members claim they are entitled to move to a higher pay grade following a job evaluation scheme they say was stalled by the Expenditure Department.