Dispute over nurses’ pay and conditions not settled, says INMO

Siptu accuses public service management of ‘smash and grab’ approach in its proposals

The introduction of a new contract was a key element in settlement proposals put forward last month which led to the suspension of further planned strikes by nurses. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times/File

The introduction of a new contract was a key element in settlement proposals put forward last month which led to the suspension of further planned strikes by nurses. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times/File

 

The dispute which saw nurses take strike action on several days last month is not over, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has said.

The union’s general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said its executive council had only suspended the industrial action action over pay and staffing issues and had not called it off.

She said there was still unfinished business that had to be addressed as part of an overall settlement.

The INMO, Siptu and public service management were due to attend a hearing of the Labour Court on Tuesday in an attempt to resolve differences that have emerged over a proposed new contract for nurses.

However, the hearing was put off until next week. On Tuesday, the INMO said it wanted time to consider new correspondence from public service management about the terms of reference for a proposed new independent expert group which is to review the nursing profession, particularly pay for clinical nurse managers and other promotional positions.

The new contract and the review group were key elements of a Labour Court recommendation which led to the suspension of a series of strikes by nurses last month.

The INMO said it had received received correspondence on the issue of the review on Tuesday.

The union said a Labour Court hearing on the dispute over the planned contract would now take place next Monday.

The Labour Court recommendation last month, which led to the suspension of further strikes, also involved the introduction of a new higher-paid enhanced pay scale for some nurses as well as the extension of eligibility for additional allowances.

Nursing unions have rejected proposals for the new contract tabled by Government representatives which would give health service employers provision to move nurses between locations up a radius of 40km and to significantly change shift patterns.

Arriving at the Labour Court on Tuesday Ms Ní Sheaghdha said the proposals put forward by management would never be accepted by nurses in a ballot.

She said management had to make sure what it was seeking was realistic.

“The employer has sought areas of change ( in the contract) that would actually work against recruitment and retention in our view. It would be detrimental to the service,” she said.

“We object to the manner in which the employer has approached the contract issue. Fundamentally what is required is a look at how nurses work, what they do and how that can be enhanced. Instead what we have is a very real focus on giving authority to employers to move nurses during shifts and to change shift patterns.”

She said such measures would not assist in any manner or form in improving productivity or in enhancing patient care. She said the proposals would “ serve only to ensure that nurses would not stay in the system”.

Siptu accused public service management of a “smash and grab” approach in its proposals for the new nurses’ contract.

Siptu health services divisional organiser Paul Bell said the demands made by the employer side for the proposed new contract were “too ambitious” and well outside the terms of the existing public service agreement.

He said proposals that nurses could be re-deployed more than 40 km during a shift were not feasible and too much for the union’s members.

He said he believed the management side was tabling such proposals “ as a way to frustrate the negotiations”.

“We want to see some type of realistic proposals to advance the negotiations and obviously to work within the terms of the Public Service Stability Agreement,” he said.