Nurses in late bid to avert strike


TALKS begin tomorrow in perhaps the last chance to avert a national strike by 26,000 nurses.

Officially the talks between the Nursing Alliance, the Department of Health and public health managers are "exploratory". But if there is no firm offer which is a significant improvement on the last one, then the first national industrial action by nurses in 15 years appears inevitable.

The minimum needed to avert a strike is probably a concession of a 10 per cent pay rise for staff nurses, with proportional increases for other grades, a commitment to staffing many of the temporary nurses in the system and the beginning of an early retirement package.

In the meantime, the alliance of four nursing unions is proceeding with ballots on industrial action. The outcome, predicted to be overwhelmingly in favour, should be known by the last week in February.