The Irish Times

INMO says strike by nurses to go ahead

- PAUL CULLEN, Health Correspond­ent

Emergency department nurses are threatenin­g to go on a nationwide strike in February if the Government fails to address the issue of understaff­ing.

In confirming it plans to go ahead with industrial action in seven hospitals on Tuesday, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisati­on (INMO) says further stoppages are scheduled for January 12th and 26th.

General secretary Liam Doran said the union would move into a national dispute from early February if no action was taken to tackle the trolley crisis.

The union said next Tuesday’s industrial action, a series of rolling two-hour stoppages in the hospitals, was proceeding because of management’s “total failure” to produce any specific, immediate measures to address understaff­ing.

The strike will see nurses completely withdraw from emergency department­s in the affected hospitals “while maintainin­g an emergency response team in an adjacent area”.

Premature

The HSE said the action was “premature” because discussion­s were ongoing within Government department­s over some of the measures demanded by the INMO.

HSE director of human relations Rosarii Mannion said the two sides were “close enough”, and claimed it would be helpful if the union called off next week’s strike.

She said one of the main issues at stake, that of incrementa­l pay for graduate nurses, affected a number of unions and was the subject of talks with an independen­t facilitato­r.

INMO assistant general secretary Dave Hughes claimed agreement had been reached with the HSE on two issues relating to the filling of clinical nurse manager positions and incrementa­l pay for graduate recruits, but the Department of Public Expenditur­e overruled the HSE.

Election periods

This was denied by Government spokespeop­le and the HSE. “The fact that nurses’ strikes tend to coincide with election periods has made some of us cynical,” one source said last night. “This is about pay demands, not overcrowdi­ng.”

Talks between the INMO and the HSE on averting the strike broke down earlier this week after four days at the Workplace Relations Commission. Employers have since claimed the main outstandin­g issues related to pay, and alleged the union’s demands would cost ¤40 million a year and break the Lansdowne Road agreement.

The INMO denied it at any stage lodged a general pay claim for all nurses in emergency nurses or sought to depart from the terms of the agreement. It described the Government estimates of the cost of its claim as “not credible”.

Patients whose appointmen­ts or procedures are being postponed due to Tuesday’s strike are being contacted directly, the HSE has advised.

The hospitals to be affected are Beaumont and Tallaght in Dublin; Mercy University Hospital, Cork; Cavan General Hospital; Tullamore hospital; University Hospital Waterford; and University Hospital Galway.

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