Ambulance staff to go on strike next Tuesday

Union urges Minister for Health to intervene to try to avert planned work stoppage

14/09/2013 - FEATURES MAGAZINE - 01.46am An Ambulance arrives bringing a patient to Medical staff working in the A&E Accident and Emergency Department of St. James’s Hospital Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES  AMBULANCE ... STOCK..... FILE...

14/09/2013 - FEATURES MAGAZINE - 01.46am An Ambulance arrives bringing a patient to Medical staff working in the A&E Accident and Emergency Department of St. James’s Hospital Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES AMBULANCE ... STOCK..... FILE...

 

Staff in the National Ambulance Service are to go on strike next Tuesday in a long-running dispute over union representation rights and the deduction of union subscriptions from pay.

The 24-hour stoppage will involve members of the National Ambulance Service Representative Association (Nasra) which is a branch of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA). The union maintained that there are approximately 500 ambulance personnel in Nasra.

The planned work stoppage by ambulance personnel will be the first in a wave of strikes in the health service scheduled to take place in the coming weeks. It is unclear at this stage what the impact of the stoppage will be on the ambulance service nationally.

The union confirmed the strike would go ahead on Tuesday in a letter sent to the Minister for Health Simon Harris on Thursday.

PNA general secretary Peter Hughes urged the Minister to intervene directly to head off the dispute which he said was “resolvable and which had been unnecessarily forced on ambulance personnel members”.

Separately, members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) are set to go on strike on Wednesday, January 30th in the first of six stoppages over pay and staffing issues.

And psychiatric nurses are set to begin an overtime ban at the end of the month and stage a series of work stoppages in February.

The strike by members of Nasra had been scheduled to take place in mid-December but was deferred after the HSE threatened to seek a court injunction to prevent it going ahead.

The dispute does not involve ambulance staff represented by the trade union Siptu.

The PNA has argued that the HSE was refusing to engage in negotiations with its Nasra branch or to make payroll deductions of union subscriptions on behalf of its members in the ambulance service.

The HSE has maintained that it does not recognise the PNA as a representative body for ambulance staff personnel.

The HSE said before Christmas that recognising the PNA as a representative body for ambulance personnel would undermine agreements in place with the trade union Siptu and would impair good industrial relations.

In his letter to the Minister on Thursday Mr Hughes said the HSE had refused so far to engage with his union at any level “except through correspondence containing threats of injunctions and to include sanctions against our members through the HSE-retained legal company”.

“Apart from the clear abdication of responsibility by the HSE to resolve this issue by negotiation,we view their approach as a significant abuse of public funding. “

He said the HSE had refused to accept an invitation to go to the Workplace Relations Commission to try to resolve the current dispute.