Strike by hospital support staff to go ahead on Thursday

‘No movement’ at talks between Siptu and HSE

The pay dispute follows a job-evaluation process that found the skill levels for HSE support staff had increased significantly in recent years, leading to union claims for pay rises. Photograph: Getty Images

The pay dispute follows a job-evaluation process that found the skill levels for HSE support staff had increased significantly in recent years, leading to union claims for pay rises. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Thousands of hospital support staff are set to strike on Thursday after talks over pay issues ended without agreement.

The union Siptu represents around 10,000 HSE support staff who are set to strike, likely causing significant nationwide disruption to health services.

Union officials had been in talks with Health Service Executive (HSE) management, as well as the Department of Health and the Department of Public Expenditure. The talks, held at the Workplace Relations Commission, ended on Monday evening without agreement.

The pay dispute follows a job-evaluation process that found the skill levels for HSE support staff had increased significantly in recent years, leading to union claims for pay rises.

Unions and management had previously met last Thursday, but failed to reach an agreement to avert a strike. The talks began again on Monday afternoon, and at 5pm sources inside the room said there had been “no movement” in the dispute.

Commenting after talks concluded, Paul Bell, Siptu health division organiser, said the strike would go ahead on Thursday morning.

“Regrettably it is likely to have serious consequences for the delivery of patient services,” he said.

“A claim by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to the effect that there was no commitment to pay additional money on foot of the job-evaluation scheme is patently inaccurate.

“The health employers accepted the recommendations of the job-evaluation scheme in 2017 which set out which staff members should be upgraded and remunerated accordingly.”

Union officials have said that in line with the 2017 evaluation, members were entitled to pay rises of up to €3,000.

Pay agreements

The action will involve Siptu members who provide portering, household and catering services, and those employed as healthcare assistants, maternity care assistants, laboratory aides, chefs and surgical instrument technicians.

Mr Bell said union members would find it “extremely difficult” to agree to further national pay agreements, such as the Public Service Stability Agreement, unless their current agreement was honoured in full.

The nationwide strike will affect 38 hospitals, and is due to begin at 8am on Thursday.

Ahead of the talks on Monday the HSE said all efforts would be made to minimise the effects of any industrial action on patients and services.

In a statement after the talks ended the HSE said as agreement could not be reached, “Siptu’s formal notification of a 24-hour full withdrawal of labour will now commence at normal shift starting time on Thursday”.

“With regard to the matter of contingency arrangements, Siptu have indicated that they will commence a process of engagement with hospital management at individual workplace level.”