Tuesday 20 August 2019

Patients may be hit as 10,000 support staff plan hospital strikes

Stephen Donnelly: Strike “left entire hospital network reeling”. Picture: Collins
Stephen Donnelly: Strike “left entire hospital network reeling”. Picture: Collins

Anne-Marie Walsh

Up to 10,000 hospital support staff at 38 hospitals and health care facilities have served notice of a 24-hour strike in two weeks.

The stoppage is due to take place on Thursday, June 20, and Siptu has threatened further strikes on June 25 and 26 and July 2, 3 and 4.

A HSE spokesperson was unable to say what the likely effect on services would be, but said it would seek an early meeting with Siptu to ensure the impact is "minimised".

Among the hospitals to be affected if the stoppage goes ahead are Cork University Hospital, Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, Beaumont Hospital, the Mater and St James Hospital.

Staff are demanding that the Government pay wage hikes ranging from €1,500 to €2,900 a year they claim are outstanding following a previous job evaluation scheme.

Siptu said 6,000 staff were due the increases under the initial phases of the scheme. In a statement, the union said "initial action" will involve up to 10,000 staff in portering, household and catering services mounting pickets.

They work as health care assistants, maternity care assistants, laboratory aides, chefs and surgical instrument technicians.

"It is time for the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, and the Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, to step in and resolve this dispute," said Siptu deputy general secretary for the public sector, John King.

"Failure to do this will undoubtedly bring pressures on the delivery of health services."

He said members of the union accepted all public service agreements since 2010 and the Government must honour its obligations under the deals.

"It is time to deliver for these workers," he said.

"It is unacceptable that workers should be forced to go into an official dispute in order to get what they are owed."

Siptu health division organiser Paul Bell said chefs co-operated with an independent review process but their hopes of pay justice were dashed.

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Health Stephen Donnelly noted that a strike by 35,000 nurses and midwives this year "left the entire hospital network reeling".

A HSE spokesperson said it was disappointed at Siptu's decision and urged the union to return to talks.

A spokesperson at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said the dispute had been referred to the public service agreement's oversight body. It is expected to meet shortly.

Irish Independent

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