Nurses’ strike will go ahead after Labour Court decides not to intervene
Planned strike by 40,000 nurses will lead to widespread disruption
Members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation protesting outside Leinster House in the past. File photograph: Eric Luke
The planned national strike by nearly 40,000 is set to go ahead on Wednesday after the Labour Court decided not to intervene formally in the dispute.
The court found that after engaging with public service management and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) for eight hours on Monday, it had concluded an intervention at this time did not hold out the prospect of impacting on the stoppage scheduled for Wednesday.
“The court therefore has decided not to formally intervene in this dispute at this time. The court will remain focused on the matter in the coming days as it continues to assess what assistance it might provide at the appropriate time,” it said.
Exploratory talks convened by the Labour Court on Monday ended shortly after midnight.
The planned strike by members of the INMO on Wednesday will lead to widespread disruption in the health service with about 15,000 people facing the cancellation of hospital out-patient appointments or planned procedures.
The HSE has warned of delays and significant disruption at hospital emergency departments as a result of the one-day strike by nurses starting at 8am on Wednesday.
Although all emergency departments will be open, they are expected to be busier than usual because local injury units will be shut due to the strike. Bad weather could also drive increased demand for emergency health services.
With no triage services being provided during the strike except in children’s hospitals, there are concerns over the identification of urgent cases in emergency departments. Just two nurses will staff the floor of each large emergency department, with two more assigned to the resuscitation area and two to support.
Patients should attend emergency departments only if absolutely necessary, according to the HSE.
In the event of a major emergency occurring, provisions had been agreed for an appropriate emergency response, the HSE said.
All planned in-patient and day-case surgeries, with the exception of cancer surgeries, will be cancelled on Wednesday due to the strike. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy appointments will take place as normal (as will urgent cancer surgery), and dialysis, palliative care and colposcopy services will also operate.
Some 13,000 outpatients appointments have been cancelled, along with 2,000 planned procedures.
Nurses are protesting over pay and recruitment and retention issues.
The nursing unions are seeking pay parity with other graduate-entry health service grades such as physiotherapists. Nurses maintain they are paid about €7,000 per year less than groups such as physiotherapists. They argue such rises are needed to tackle recruitment and retention problems in the health service.
The Government has argued that the provision of special pay rises to nurses would undermine the current public service agreement and lead to knock-on claims elsewhere across the public services.
Some informed sources said the Government could look at areas such as a review of the role of nurses rather than establishing a commission on nursing.
However, sources said the Government was resisting any form of financial “down payment “ or “ lead in” payment to nurses in advance.