Government has not tabled any plans to prevent nurses strike says union

Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation appeal to Taoiseach to help call off stoppages

The planned strike by INMO members on Wednesday, January 30th, will be the first in a series of six scheduled work stoppages in the coming weeks as part of an on-going dispute over pay and staffing issues Photograph: Frank Miller

The planned strike by INMO members on Wednesday, January 30th, will be the first in a series of six scheduled work stoppages in the coming weeks as part of an on-going dispute over pay and staffing issues Photograph: Frank Miller

 

The Government has not tabled any new initiatives to try to avert a 24-hour strike by nurses this Wednesday, with further work stoppages planned, union sources have said.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has appealed directly to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his senior staff to table plans that would help call the strike off.

Government sources insisted on Sunday that no proposals for additional pay rises could be tabled. Sources said Government could consider other proposals for nurses that did not involve additional pay but that no decisions had been taken on what these could be.

A spokeswoman for Minister for Health Simon Harris last night again appealed for unions and health management to use the time between now and Wednesday to avoid the dispute going ahead.

“The Minister has said repeatedly engagement is key to this dispute being avoided and he hopes the remaining time is used by both sides to prevent industrial action from proceeding,” the spokeswoman added.

Challenges

The levels of nursing which will be provided across the health service during Wednesday’s strike will pose real challenges, according to the HSE.

It said it had concerns about the scale of the planned 24-hour work stoppage by nearly 40,000 nurses across hospitals and in the community, as well as about the number of services that would be affected.

The planned strike by members of the INMO on Wednesday will be the first in a series of six scheduled work stoppages in the weeks ahead as part of a dispute over pay and staffing issues.

The HSE said it was continuing to engage with the INMO to secure further agreement “to allow us to operate safely” amid strike action.

“To put it into context, for a single day of the dispute, up to 13,000 patients will have their outpatient appointment cancelled and a further 2,000 planned procedures will not go ahead.

“In terms of community services, thousands of appointments will be cancelled.

“While these patients and clients will be rescheduled, it will affect our ability to treat further patients in a timely way. Also, if the subsequent days proceed, it will have a cumulative impact on wait times and volumes.”

Overtime ban

Meanwhile, psychiatric nurses on Thursday are scheduled to put in place an overtime ban in the mental health service.

Members of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) plan to escalate their campaign of industrial action to full strikes towards the middle of February.

The Irish Times reported on Saturday that HSE senior management had warned in a confidential internal memo that the organisation’s ability to deliver safe, sustainable services would be “compromised” if the planned nurses’ strike went ahead on Wednesday.

Talks aimed at averting the stoppage broke down on Friday evening.

In a statement, the HSE said efforts would continue to avert strike action and health service management would “work with INMO to ensure appropriate arrangements are in place to support safe care provision.

“The threatened industrial action poses real challenges to service delivery given the scale of the action proposed across our hospitals and community services. Our objective is to deliver safe services during the day of the strike.

“To this end, our hospitals and community services have put contingency plans in place for the day and we have secured exemptions on some critical service areas.

“The levels of nursing which will be provided across the health service on the day of action will pose real challenges, particularly in the winter period when our hospitals and services are operating at close to 100 per cent occupancy.”