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Health Minister: 'I don't believe the threat of industrial action helps anyone'

Siptu has announced a ballot of more than 25,000 support staff.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/George Rudy

Updated 5.05pm

THE MINISTER FOR Health has reacted with dismay to the latest ballot for strike action to be undertaken by healthcare support staff.

Responding to reports that preparations are underway for such a vote, Simon Harris said, “I am determined to work on issues that matter for patients and staff and I don’t believe the threat of industrial action helps anyone.”

In a statement, his department added that it is “committed to the ongoing implementation of the provisions of the Lansdowne Road Agreement”.

In this context, the introduction of a Job Evaluation Scheme for the support staff grades is currently being considered by both the HSE and the Department.

The announcement by unions representing support staff in the service comes as a ballot of emergency department workers is due to take place on 23 January.

Siptu confirmed this morning that its members will be balloted due to “several breaches by the Department of Health and HSE of the terms of the national public service agreements”.

The support staff covers a wide-range of personnel, including cleaners, porters, security, and some health care assistants in certain areas such as home care.

It could also include other hospital staff such as radiographers.

At least 25,000 people will be balloted.

“It is deeply regrettable that our members feel compelled to take this action,” the trade union’s health organiser Paul Bell said in a statement, highlighting the patience of Siptu members wearing thin as the issue rumbles on.

“They have been pushed to the brink by the refusal of the HSE and the Department to adhere to the agreements and reintroduce a job evaluation scheme, to pay interns, apply incremental credit and double time payments.

The failure to implement these sections of the agreements have been particularly evident in the HSE South area which includes County Cork and County Kerry.

A similar ballot was postponed earlier this year.

Although not all hospitals will be affected, a number of major facilities across all areas of the country will be included in the potential strike action, with a full list to be released by Siptu in the coming days.

In a statement, the HSE said:

The HSE is disappointed that SIPTU has taken the decision to ballot support staff for strike action. The HSE is open to the reintroduction of a job evaluation scheme for support staff subject to management discussions regarding costings for such a scheme.

This month, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) announced the result of their nationwide ballot, with 90% of nurses voting in favour of industrial action.

The turnout was 62%.

Nurses and midwives say that they are understaffed and overworked, and that these conditions make it impossible to care properly for patients.

Concession previously given to nurses working in emergency departments, but not ended to other other workers, was one element highlighted by Bell as prompting the ballot.

Additional reporting by Gráinne Ní Aodha

“We’ve had enough”: Nurses have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action >

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Nicky Ryan

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