HSE able to respond to ambulance calls despite strike

Army provided ambulances and crews to assist HSE during stoppage

The National Ambulance Service received 259 calls on Friday between 7am and noon, with five of these responded to by the Department of Defence, the HSE said. File photograph: Alan Betson

The National Ambulance Service received 259 calls on Friday between 7am and noon, with five of these responded to by the Department of Defence, the HSE said. File photograph: Alan Betson

 

The HSE has said it was able to respond to ambulance service calls on Friday despite a strike by up to 500 personnel.

The staff concerned staged a work stoppage on Friday from 7am until 5pm as part of an ongoing dispute over trade union representation rights and the deduction of union subscriptions at source from their pay.

Army ambulances and crews were deployed by the Government to assist the HSE during the strike.

The HSE said its national ambulance service (NAS) managed the situation “despite the challenges being experienced”.

It said a robust contingency plan had been devised and agreed and was implemented across the country to deal with the effects of the strike.

“Between 7am and 4pm , the NAS had received a total of 845 [calls] with 12 of these responded to through the agreement the HSE had with the Department of Defence to allow for the employment of army ambulance vehicles and personnel. There was one response involving the air ambulance/helicopter service.”

Further stoppages

The staff who went on strike on Friday were members of the National Ambulance Service Representative Association (Nasra), which is a branch of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA). The personnel concerned are scheduled to hold further work stoppages on Thursday, February 28th, and Friday, March 1st.

Members of Nasra already held a 10-hour work stoppage at the end of January.

The PNA maintained that the staff concerned were taking part in the strike in pursuit of their right “to be represented by the union of their choice, and not by a trade union that the HSE wants to force them to join”.

Industrial relations

The HSE defended its stances in relation to Nasra and said ambulance personnel were well represented through agreed industrial relations processes.

“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 NAS – it is not appropriate for employers to recognise break-away unions. Recognising break-away unions has a destabilising effect on good industrial relations.”