Hospitals countrywide face strike action by support staff

Thousands of porters, caterers, healthcare assistants to be balloted over pay dispute

Hospital cleaners are among the thousands of support staff across the country who will be balloted on strike action. File photograph: Getty

Hospital cleaners are among the thousands of support staff across the country who will be balloted on strike action. File photograph: Getty

 

The Government is facing a potential national strike by support staff in hospitals across the country including porters, security personnel, cleaners and healthcare assistants.

Trade union Siptu said on Sunday it will ballot 17,000 hospital support staff in a dispute over the implementation of pay rises under a job evaluation scheme.

The union’s health division organiser Paul Bell said the confidence of his members in the overall current public service agreement was “now severely undermined”. He said Siptu members in the health sector were “actively questioning its future.”

Siptu had announced earlier this month that it would ballot about 7,000 health service support staff, mainly healthcare assistants and laboratory assistants, for strike action. But it has now decided to expand this ballot to include all support staff in 36 hospitals countrywide in a process to begin next Monday.

The union said the additional hospital staff who will vote on strike action included workers in catering, household, portering, patient transport and security services

Hospital chefs are also being balloted by Siptu as part of a separate dispute over pay.

The Government had agreed a job evaluation scheme to look at the roles of health service support staff under the Lansdowne Road public service agreement which was negotiated in 2015.

This process was to examine different support-grade groups in several sequential phases.

The union maintained that the initial phases of the job evaluation scheme indicated that a number of grades, such as healthcare assistants, had been underpaid and deserved a pay rise.

The union said the increases involved ranged from €1,600 to € 3,200 per year.

However, the union said that at a recent meeting the Department of Public Expenditure would not set a date for payment of these increases under the job evaluation scheme.

The union subsequently decided in recent days to ballot also for strike action the groups that were scheduled to be covered by later phases on the basis that the “totality of the job evaluation scheme was now compromised”.

Mr Bell said that a recent decision by the HSE to put in place an overtime ban and the announcement of a three-month recruitment embargo in some hospitals had heightened tensions. He said this move placed additional pressure on the union’s members.

“This is coupled by the fact our members have played by the rules and waited since 2015 for the Government to honour, in full, a job evaluation process that was negotiated as part of the Lansdowne Road agreement. “

Siptu said on Sunday it would ballot support staff grades for strike action in centres including: