Three-day health strike deferred pending full Labour Court hearing

Siptu suspends strikes due to take place next week at request of Labour Court

Health support workers on strike outside St James’s Hospital on Wednesday in Dublin as a total of 10,000 hospital workers went on strike. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Health support workers on strike outside St James’s Hospital on Wednesday in Dublin as a total of 10,000 hospital workers went on strike. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

A three-day strike by health service support staff scheduled for next week that could have delayed operations and badly affected the supply of meals for thousands of patients, has been deferred.

The strike was suspended pending a full Labour Court hearing to “allow for a full hearing to take place with no preconditions”, said Siptu health division organiser Paul Bell.

Praising the “unity and strength” shown by Siptu members, he said: “Ultimately, our members will decide on the outcome of any recommendations that emerge from negotiations at the Labour Court, by way of a secret ballot.”

Saying that the deferral was “good news” for patients, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy, nevertheless, said that pay rises would increase pressure on public spending: “It is the taxpayers’ money. It is not a bottomless pit,” he said.

Earlier, Minister for Health Simon Harris said staff had some legitimate grievances, but an agreement about the timescale for extra payments is needed. The gap between the sides is not wide.

Siptu has argued that the findings of a job evaluation scheme could be worth between €1,500 and €3,000 to its members because it shows, they argue, that their roles have expanded.

The Department of Public Expenditure’s original position was that it did not want to make payments until 2021, but it had now agreed to start doing so from November 2019, Mr Harris pointed out.

“That is a significant move on the management’s part. The debate is now about the phasing of the implementation and the timelines. That has to be done cognisant of the economic backdrop which the country faces,” said Mr Harris.

More than 2,000 patients had hospital appointments and scheduled procedures cancelled because of this week’s strike, but the effects of the now-deferred action next week would have been far greater.