Ambulance staff are to hold the first of two 24-hour strikes on Friday next in an escalation of a long-running campaign over trade union representation rights.
The National Ambulance Service Representative Association (Nasra) said about 500 members including paramedics, advanced paramedics and emergency medical technicians would be involved in the stoppage. The Health Service Executive does not recognise the PNA or its Nasra branch as a representative body for ambulance personnel.
The strike will take place from 7am on May 31st to 7am on June 1st. The union has said there will be a further 24-hour strike in early June with potentially more stoppages in subsequent weeks.
Nasra is a branch of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) and its general secretary Peter Hughes said on Thursday that the HSE had forced an escalation of the dispute.
"It should now be a priority for the new HSE director general, Paul Reid, to bring this dispute to an end, and stop trying to force ambulance personnel into unions that they have made it clear they are not prepared to be members of," he said.
Ambulance staff who are members of Nasra have staged six work stoppages since January as part of the current campaign of industrial action.
The previous stoppages have run from 7am to 5pm and the HSE deployed managers with appropriate qualifications as well as military ambulances and personnel to provide cover during the strikes. Staff represented by the trade union Siptu have not been involved.
However the next wave of strikes will run for 24 hours and the PNA has warned they could cause more disruption than has been experienced during previous stoppages.
Mr Hughes said that it is incumbent on the HSE to negotiate contingency arrangements for the 24-hour strike day: “It has become very clear that not alone has the HSE refused to engage in the normal industrial relations protocol of agreeing contingency plans for our previous strike days, but it has also exploited the professionalism and dedication of ambulance personnel to ensure that ambulance services are provided even in a strike situation.”
He said that the demand by 500 ambulence staff members to join the PNA has cross-party support. "However, despite his comments in the Dáil that he wants this dispute referred to the Workplace Relations Commission, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has been incapable of bringing the HSE to its senses and ending this divisive dispute."
The HSE has said ambulance personnel are well represented through agreed industrial relations processes.
“The National Ambulance Service recognises Siptu, Unite and Forsa for staff in the service. In particular Siptu is the recognised trade union for front-line staff,” it has said.
It has also 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”.