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500 ambulance staff have gone on strike today in a row over union recognition

Contingency plans during the strike include the deployment of defence forces ambulances.

UP TO 500 members of the Psychiatric Nurses Association have commenced a ten-hour strike today as a result of a dispute with the HSE over union recognition. 

The strike – which began this morning at 7am and is due to end at 5pm – is being staged in protest at the HSE’s refusal to recognise Nasra, the PNA ambulance personnel branch,  as a representative body for members of the National Ambulance Service.

Contingency plans during today’s strike include the deployment of Defence Force ambulances around the country. 

PNA General Secretary Peter Hughes has said that the HSE had ignored two requests from the Workplace Relations Commission to attend talks to resolve the dispute. 

The HSE has said, however, that the National Ambulance Service already recognises three unions, including SIPTU. 

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One this morning, Hughes said that PNA members received letters from the HSE stating that they are allowed representation from SIPTU and no other union. 

Our members are looking for the fundamental right to join the union of their choice and be represented by that union.

Hughes denied that today’s strike had resulted from a disagreement between the PNA and SIPTU but comes, he said, as a result of the HSE’s refusal to recognise Nasra, which was established nine years ago, and of a lack of proper engagement on the matter.

“The people who joined the PNA were not happy obviously with the representation that they were getting, hence they joined the PNA. But the HSE’s response to this has been unbelievable to say the least.”

Hughes has said that the HSE has refused to engage with the PNA and that there have been no direct talks to resolve the dispute. 

In response, a HSE spokesperson has said that “ambulance personnel are well represented through agreed industrial relations processes.”

“The National Ambulance Service recognises SIPTU, UNITE and FORSA for staff in the service. In particular SIPTU is the recognised trade union for front-line staff.”

Recognition of other associations or unions would undermine the positive engagement that exists and would impair good industrial relations in the National Ambulance Service.

Where employees already have strong union representation, the HSE says that “it is not appropriate for employers to recognise break-away unions.”

“Recognising break-away unions has a destabilising effect on good industrial relations.”

‘Emergency cover’

The PNA has said that Nasra members will only respond to life-threatening and potentially life-threatening cases during today’s strike. 

According to a spokesperson, the Defence Forces “will provide cover to the National Ambulance Service (NAS)  during the industrial action today through the provision of Defence Forces Advanced Paramedics, Paramedics and ambulances.”

“Defence Forces Ambulances and crew will be based in the Eastern and southern regions as requested by the NAS.”

A spokesperson for the HSE has advised the public that in an emergency situation they should call 112/999 as normal and the National Ambulance Service will respond.

Meanwhile, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has scheduled six 24-hour strikes by its 37,000 members on 30 January and 5, 7, 12, 13 and 14 February if its member issues are not addressed.

Members will continue to provide lifesaving care and emergency response teams during this period, but some operations and clinic appointments will be cancelled.

The dispute centres on pay, conditions and staff retention levels.

INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha described a meeting yesterday held between the INMO and PNA with the HSE as “deeply disappointing” and that no proposals had been made to avert next Wednesday’s strike. 

“We have referred the health employers to the Workplace Relations Commission, and they have agreed to attend. Preparations for the strike continue.”
“There are now 9 days until Ireland’s nurses and midwives go on strike. It’s time for the government to get real and make serious proposals to resolve this.”

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