Hundreds leave Siptu to form new union


HUNDREDS OF firefighters and ambulance paramedic staff have joined with psychiatric nurses to form a trade union representing frontline personnel in the public service.

As part of the move the National Ambulance Service Representative Association and the Irish Fire and Emergency Service Association have become sections of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA). A new name is expected to be adopted for the overall organisation shortly.

General secretary of the nurses’ association Des Kavanagh said yesterday he expected 2,500 members would sign up to the new organisation within six weeks.

He said in the immediate term, the primary aim of the new organisation would be to protect frontline services to the public. He said these were under immense threat.

However, he said in the medium term the organisation would also be fighting to protect premium pay and allowances for frontline personnel.

He said that eventually it would go back to dealing with overall pay and conditions for members. However, he did not envisage this taking place in the next 12 to 18 months.

Derek O’Rourke for the ambulance personnel said ambulance paramedic staff felt the need to form a new union “in light of the Government and the HSE’s sustained attack on our members pay and conditions in the nine months gone by, [and] also in response to Siptu’s lack of leadership and lack of will to tackle the Government and our employer head on during the austerity measures forced upon us”.

John Kidd of the firefighters’ association said he believed firefighters and paramedic staff should represent themselves. He said firefighters had been represented by officials that did not come from their background.

“Unless you come from the service, it is very hard to get across to Government what exactly we want”. He said one national fire service should be established, which, he argued, would save the taxpayer money. He said at present there were 37 fire authorities in the State, 37 fire chiefs and 127 assistant fire chiefs.

“If you go 60 miles to the Border there is only one chief fire officer, two assistant chief fire officers and two deputy assistant chief fire officers. There is €350 million spent on the fire service annually of which €80 million is spent on management.”

Mr O’Rourke called on the national ambulance service to be removed from the HSE and made a stand-alone organisation directly answerable to a minister.

Siptu president Jack O’Connor last night said he very much regretted the departure of members in the fire and ambulance service from the union but suggested that the numbers involved were greatly exaggerated. He said the main grievance of those promoting the move to the PNA was Siptu’s support for the Croke Park deal. Mr Kidd said his members’ concerns ran deeper than that.