Nurses’ strikes averted as unions put Labour Court pay and staffing offer to members

Picture: Larry Cummins

Further disruption to tens of thousands of patients has been averted — for now — after the nursing unions agreed to call off strikes and put a Labour Court recommendation on pay and staffing to its members for a ballot.

However, just hours after the recommendation was issued, the country’s largest public service union, Fórsa, was already warning that it would be studying the proposals to see if it might have any implications for other civil and public service grades.

“We expect that other unions will do the same and that the Ictu [Irish Congress of Trade Unions] Public Services Committee will consider the matter in due course,” stated Fórsa.

Phil Ní Sheaghdha, general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, said the union’s executive council decided to suspend the industrial action to allow time to consider the offer.

Ms Ní Sheaghdha will meet the union’s strike committee, together with the executive tomorrow to discuss the recommendation that will be subject to a ballot by members.

She said the recommendation “makes progress” across all areas of concern to the INMO, including the key areas of safe staffing and addressing recruitment and retention problems.

Among other proposals it includes:

  • Guaranteed multi-annual funding to maintain safe staffing levels;
  • Significant changes to salary scale and allowances;
  • Increased education and training opportunities;
  • Also, an expert group will examine, in a short period of time, remaining pay and reform issues including those affecting senior management grades.

    The deal is also understood to include the editing of existing salary levels to increase basic pay levels, increasing expenses/ allowances by up to 20% and expanding the expenses/allowances system to ensure thousands of more nurses can access it.

    “After over 30 hours of negotiations at the Labour Court, the executive council have agreed that sufficient progress has been made to suspend strikes and consider the Labour Court’s recommendation,” said Ms Ní Sheaghdha.

    “There is still more negotiation to be done, but we are at a point where we believe strikes can be suspended. Members will be kept fully informed and will have the final say in a ballot.

    “Safe staffing along with recruitment and retention were key concerns for us, and we have made progress on both.”

    Phil Ní Sheaghdha

    The Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) also suspended their strike action after the Labour Court intervened yesterday.

    PNA general secretary Peter Hughes said the board had agreed to suspend strike action on the basis that intensive engagement would take place between the parties before a full Labour Court hearing on Friday.

    The HSE welcomed the decision by the INMO and the Psychiatric Nurses Association to suspend the three-day strikes planned for this week.

    A spokesperson for the HSE said the health authority would do everything possible to restore normal services but it would not be possible in all areas.

    “Our hospitals and community-based services will make direct contact locally with patients and clients where services are restored,” she said.

    Chairman and co-founder of the Irish Patients Association, Stephen McMahon, welcomed the suspension of the nurses’ planned strike action but regretted it took so long for the parties to find a way out of the “industrial relations swamp”.

    Health Minister Simon Harris said the suspension of the nurses’ strike action was “welcome news” for patients across the country but he also knew that nurses and midwives did not take the decision to strike lightly.

    Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said he would be recommending that Cabinet accepts the Labour Court recommendation when it meets this morning.

    More on this topic

    Majority of nurses see contract as ‘good deal’

    INMO recommends that members vote for Labour Court proposals

    INMO warns nurses' strike has only been suspended, not called off

    Nurses' dispute returns to Labour Court after talks break down

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