‘It is not on’: Harris criticises psychiatric nurses for overtime ban
Minister says taking industrial action while talks are under way is a ‘worrying trend’
Minister for Health Simon Harris: ‘We need to have a situation where people enter the Workplace Relations Commission or the Labour Court in other cases that they do not engage in industrial action during that time.’ Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times
Psychiatric nurses have said the impact of an overtime ban put in place on Thursday morning will get progressively worse and that a potentially very serious situation will develop over the weekend.
A spokesman for the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) said on Thursday the HSE would not be able to redeploy staff working in the community to acute and residential centres over the weekend.
The PNA said that as a result of the overtime ban, health service mangers had curtailed some community services on Thursday to allow them to move nursing staff to fill gaps on rosters in acute units.
Minister for Health Simon Harris strongly criticised psychiatric nurses for putting in place the ban on overtime and urged them to suspend their action in the interests of patients.
“We have to call out what is going on here. It is not on,” he said on Thursday. He hit out at the PNA putting in place an overtime ban while talks at the Workplace Relations Commission over pay and staffing issues remained under way.
Members of the PNA are staging the indefinite overtime ban in protest at what the trade union described as a lack of meaningful progress in dealing with recruitment and retention difficulties in the mental health services. The move was “likely to have a significant impact on services”, the HSE said.
The Minister said: “We had a proud tradition in this country in trade union representation, whereby if a trade union was in a dispute with the employer, it would use the industrial relations mechanisms to resolve that dispute. And afterwards, if there was no resolution, they might take action.
“We now seem to have a worrying trend where trade unions enter into a process, and in the middle of the process, decide it is appropriate to stage industrial action.”
The Minister said this was “peculiar and needs to be called out for what it is”.
“We need to have a situation where people enter the Workplace Relations Commission or the Labour Court in other cases that they do not engage in industrial action during that time.”
PNA general secretary Peter Hughes said as a result of the overtime ban some community services had been curtailed and some therapy services had been closed on Thursday.
The PNA said that in five centres, Mullingar, Portlaoise,the Phoenix centre at St Brendan’s in Dublin, Tallaght and Connolly Hospital, staff who had started their shift the previous night were still on duty at teatime on Thursday as there had been no personnel available to relieve them.
The Minister said the union and the HSE should redouble their efforts to resolve the dispute
Mr Hughes said if there were meaningful proposals put forward,the union would be prepared to go back into talks.
Mr Harris said staging industrial action that could seriously impact vulnerable patients in the country “at a time of particular vulnerability or acuity for a patient is not a responsible course of action”.
The Minister said the union and the HSE should redouble their efforts to resolve the dispute. Mr Harris said if the overtime ban continued it would have a very adverse effect on services.