Department of Public Expenditure not expected to attend talks on nurses’ strike

Move suggests meeting on Tuesday not likely to involve direct negotiations on pay issues

Members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation announcing their planned strikes in Dublin earlier this week. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins.

Members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation announcing their planned strikes in Dublin earlier this week. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins.

 

The Department of Public Expenditure is not expected to attend talks due to take place next week between nurses and health service management in an attempt to avert a planned series of strikes scheduled for the weeks ahead.

This would suggest that the planned meeting on Tuesday will not involve direct negotiations on pay issues.

The department declined to comment on Friday on whether it would be taking part in the talks on Tuesday.

Sources said only the Department of Health and the HSE would be attending the meeting with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) and the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA). The unions both announced strikes this week over pay and recruitment and retention issues.

The trade union Siptu has also been invited to attend the meeting on Tuesday, although its 4,000 nursing members are not involved in the current dispute.

Initial talks on contingency arrangements to be put in place in the event of the planned nurses’ strikes going ahead got under way on Friday between the HSE and the unions.

The INMO has said its members will provide emergency and life-saving services during the planned strikes. The talks on contingency arrangements are set to reconvene on Monday.

It is expected that at the separate meeting with the unions on Tuesday health service managers will press them on their precise demands in the dispute.

The unions have argued that nurses should have pay parity with other degree-entry professions in the health service such as physiotherapists, who they maintain earn about €7,000 more per year and work a shorter week. They argue that such an increase is necessary to tackle recruitment and retention problems.

Responsibilities

Some sources within Government suggested that review of roles, responsibilities and professional development of nurses as well as pay – which was proposed by the Public Service Pay Commission last autumn – could ultimately end up on the table as part of settlement talks.

However, it is unclear if nursing unions would accept such a proposal without some form of “downpayment “ or financial offer being made.

The Government has argued the nurses’ pay demands would cost €300 million, and lead to knock-on claims from other groups of State employees.

The body that oversees the current overall public service agreement between the Government and unions is to meet next Friday to consider the nurses’ dispute.

INMO members are set to strike on January 30th and February 5th, 7th, 12th, 13th and 14th.

The PNA said its members would initially stage on overtime ban on January 31st and on February 1st, 5th, 6th and 7th, but that its campaign would escalate to work stoppages on February 12th, 13th and 14th.