Taoiseach urges medical scientists to call off strike action

Union says no choice but to stay course in the absence of ‘meaningful proposal’ or talks

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has appealed to medical scientists to call off planned strike action and engage with labour relations.

Thousands more hospital outpatient appointments are due to be cancelled on Tuesday and Wednesday as medical scientists withdraw routine laboratory services in protest at pay and conditions.

The Medical Laboratory Scientists Association (MLSA) has 2,100 members with the vast majority returning to the picket nationwide this week in only their second strike in the 60-year history of the sector.

During a visit to the Merck plant in Carrigtwohill, Co Cork, Mr Martin spoke of the “enormously significant” role of medical scientists in our health service. But he called on the sector to suspend their strike action.

“First of all they play an enormously significant role in terms of our health service and are crucial. And that is understood by Government and acknowledged. In my view the full labour relations machinery of the State has to be used to bring a resolution to this issue. We can give a timeline to the conclusion of the work of such agencies. The Labour Court could play a role in resolving this if fully utilised,” he said.

Day of action 

However, the MLSA say that they have been left with no alternative but to continue their strike after their day of action last week failed to achieve the desired result.

MLSA general secretary Terry Casey said the union is this week continuing to seek meaningful talks with the Health Service Executive and Department of Health.

“Since last week’s action neither the HSE nor the Department of Health have come to us with a meaningful proposal, or invitation to talks, that could address the issues involved . . . the MLSA’s claim for parity with clinical biochemist colleagues dates back to 2001 when an expert group report recommended pay parity between the grades. The then awarded pay parity was lost within months as a result of procedural error in the public service benchmarking awards in June 2002,” said Mr Casey.

“In January 2020, against a backdrop of a severe and worsening staffing crisis, the MLSA renewed this long-standing claim for parity of pay and career progression. More than two years on . . . these issues have not been resolved and there is now an even more significant shortage of medical scientists, affecting all regions of the country.”

MLSA chairman Kevin O’Boyle said medical scientists did not want to be stepping up the action but severe problems and burnout in the sector are being ignored by the HSE and department and these must be addressed.