Three days of consecutive strikes by nurses expected to go ahead this week
Labour Court spent the weekend in exploratory talks with the parties involved
While members of the INMO have staged three days of work stoppages over the last couple of weeks, Tuesday will be the first time psychiatric nurses will take to picket lines
The country was on Sunday night still facing three days of consecutive strikes by more than 40,000 nurses this week, which will bring large parts of the health service to a standstill.
After three days of talks with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) and public service management, the Labour Court had not – as of Sunday night – found the positions of the parties to be sufficiently close to warrant a formal intervention.
The court spent the weekend in exploratory talks with the parties.
Members of the INMO and the PNA are already scheduled to stage three strikes next week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, a move which is causing increasing alarm among health service managers.
It is understood the HSE sent a formal letter to the Government on Friday drawing attention to patient safety risks should the strikes next week go ahead.
While members of the INMO have staged three days of work stoppages over the last couple of weeks as part of a dispute over pay and staffing issues, Tuesday will be the first occasion on which psychiatric nurses, who are members of the PNA, will take to picket lines.
The PNA has previously put in place an overtime ban as part of its campaign of industrial action.
Both unions maintain that across-the-board pay rises are needed to tackle recruitment and retention problems in the health service.
The vast bulk of surgery admissions, day-case procedures, out-patient appointments and clinic appointments scheduled for Tuesday will not go ahead as a result of the planned strike.
Thousands more people will be affected by the cancellation of services in the community.
Over 80,000 people have already been affected by cancelled medical procedures and out-patient clinic appointments as a result of the three work stoppages which have been undertaken over recent weeks by INMO members .
Health service management are also concerned at the cumulative effect of the cancellations of procedures and appointments since the start of the wave of strikes at the end of January.
In addition to the work stoppages next week, the INMO is also planning further strikes on Tuesday, February 19th, and Thursday, February 21st.
The PNA is planning to hold stoppages on Tuesday, February 19th, Wednesday, February 20th, and Thursday February 21st.
Meanwhile, about 500 ambulance personnel are scheduled to go on strike on Friday as part of a separate dispute over trade union representation and the deduction of subscriptions from staff payroll.
It is understood the HSE has asked the Army to be on standby to provide support – as it did by providing military ambulances and crews during a previous strike by members of the National Ambulance Service Representative Association (Nasra) last month.
Nasra is a branch of the PNA. However, the HSE does not recognise it as a representative body for personnel in the national ambulance service.
In addition to the planned stoppage on Friday, Nasra is also scheduled to stage two further strikes in the weeks ahead as part of the current dispute.