Hospital managers warn of possibly ‘crippling’ impact of strike

Industrial action by support staff would have significant impact on services, says HSE

Hospital managers are warning of the potentially ‘crippling’ impact of the strike on hospital services

Hospital managers are warning of the potentially ‘crippling’ impact of the strike on hospital services

 

A planned strike by hospital support staff on Thursday will have a significant impact on services, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has warned.

Hospital managers are also warning of the potentially “crippling” impact of the strike on hospital services.

“This could be much worse than the nurses’ strike. Doctors and nurses do their jobs, but the staff involved in this dispute do everything else,” one told The Irish Times.

“Without them, patients may not be moved or fed, beds may not be cleaned and security may not be provided. It’s potentially devastating.”

Contingency arrangements are being drawn up to minimise the impact on patients of the strike by 10,000 Siptu members, the HSE says, though no details of affected services were available on Tuesday evening. Patients will be contacted by their local hospital or healthcare facility if a scheduled procedure or service is going to be affected.

Efforts are continuing to try to avoid industrial action, and the HSE remains committed to early resolution of the issues involved, it says.

The State’s largest hospital, St James’s in Dublin, said “hospital-wide disruption” was expected, but advised patients to attend for scheduled appointments as planned, unless contacted by the hospital directly and advised otherwise.

Minister for Health Simon Harris called for all sides to use the industrial relations mechanisms of the State to avert the 24-hour strike action.

Mr Harris said he had urged management and the union Siptu to “double their efforts” in an effort to resolve the row over pay.

Labour expressed “full support” for the industrial action and claimed the Government had “rowed back” on commitments made to health support staff.

Speaking in the Dáil, Labour leader Brendan Howlin said it would be “an act of betrayal” for the State to go back on a commitment to pay health support staff following agreed job evaluations.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the strike could be avoided by referring the dispute to the Labour Court.

He told Mr Howlin it was his understanding that “the commitment was to consider the outcome but not to automatically implement it”.

Payment timeline

Mr Varadkar said the dispute centred on the timeline for the payments which would be worth €16 million a year to hospital porters, nursing aides, cleaners, laboratory aides, instrument and catering staff.

Talks between the HSE, Siptu, the Department of Health and the Department of Public Expenditure, held at the Workplace Relations Commission, ended on Monday evening without agreement.

The pay dispute follows a job-evaluation process that found the skill levels for HSE support staff had increased significantly in recent years, leading to union claims for pay rises.

Unions and management had previously met last Thursday, but failed to reach an agreement to avert a strike. The talks began again on Monday afternoon, and at 5pm sources inside the room said there had been “no movement” in the dispute.

Union officials have said that in line with the 2017 evaluation, members were entitled to pay rises of up to €3,000.

The action will involve Siptu members who provide portering, household and catering services, and those employed as healthcare assistants, maternity care assistants, laboratory aides, chefs and surgical instrument technicians.

Paul Bell, Siptu health division organiser, said union members would find it “extremely difficult” to agree to further national pay agreements, such as the Public Service Stability Agreement, unless their current agreement was honoured in full.

The nationwide strike will affect 38 hospitals, and is due to begin at 8am on Thursday.