Ambulance staff to consider proposals for 24-hour strikes

Ambulance personnel staging sixth day of strike on Wednesday from 7am to 5pm

Ambulance staff are to consider proposals for full 24-hour strikes or rolling work stoppages as part of an escalation of their long-running dispute over trade union representation rights.

Members of the National Ambulance Service Representative Association (Nasra) on Wednesday staged their sixth day of strike action this year with a work stoppage from 7am to 5pm.

However Nasra is to hold an extraordinary general meeting in Mullingar on April 18th to consider proposals to escalate its campaign.

Nasra is a branch of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) and has said it represents about 500 staff in the HSE's National Ambulance Service including paramedics, advanced paramedics and emergency medical technicians.


However, the HSE does not recognise the PNA or its Nasra branch as a representative body for ambulance personnel.

It is understood that at the emergency general meeting next week Nasra members will consider proposals to stage 24-hour strikes or put in place a series of rolling day-time stoppages.

Refuse to recognise

The PNA said its members in Nasra totally rejected “the continued effort by the HSE to force them to be members of unions they do not want to join”.

PNA general secretary Peter Hughes said: "The PNA ambulance branch has successfully represented the interests of its members since the branch was established in 2010. The HSE has arbitrarily decided that because growing numbers of ambulance personnel are joining the PNA ambulance branch that it would simply refuse to engage with it or allow the branch to continue to represent these frontline health workers. No union can allow its members to be treated in this way by an employer, and in continuing their strike action tomorrow ambulance personnel are showing their determination to stand up for their basic right to union membership and representation."

The HSE said on Wednesday that despite challenges posed by the strike by ambulance staff the situtation had been managed and it had responded to all calls.

It said military ambulances and crews deployed by the Department of Defence to assist the National Ambulance Service had responded to 14 calls.

The HSE said the National Ambulance Service had received a total of 488 calls between 7am and 3pm on Wednesday.

The HSE again on Wedensday defended its stance in relation to recognising Nasra as a representative body for ambulance personnel.

“Ambulance personnel are well represented through agreed industrial relations processes. The National Ambulance Service recognises Siptu, Unite and Forsa for staff in the service. In particular Siptu is the recognised trade union for front-line staff.”

“Recognition of other associations or unions would undermine the positive engagement that exists and would impair good industrial relations in the National Ambulance Service. It is a well-established principle of public policy that fragmentation of union representation in the public sector is not in the interests either of the public or of workers. For that reason where grades of employee already have strong representation rights - as is the case in the National Ambulance Service - it is not appropriate for employers to recognise break-away unions. Recognising break-away unions has a destabilising effect on good industrial relations. “

"The principle of engaging only with recognised trade unions has been acknowledged previously by the Labour Court in a dispute involving the PNA and a different public-sector employer. With this in mind, National Ambulance Service will stand by the agreements that it has made with recognised unions and will not undermine those agreements by engaging with other associations or unions. "

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent