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Support staff strike: HSE says situation at hospitals 'challenging' as further talks planned

The issue centres on a dispute over pay increases.

SIPTU's Paul Bell speaks outside the Mater Hospital in Dublin earlier today.
SIPTU's Paul Bell speaks outside the Mater Hospital in Dublin earlier today.
Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated Jun 26th 2019, 5:30 PM

SIPTU HAS SAID it will return to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) on behalf of healthcare support workers for talks with the HSE tomorrow.

But the trade union has warned that a three-day strike next week is still going ahead as planned if the dispute isn’t resolved.

Patients across the country are experiencing significant disruptions today as 10,000 healthcare support workers carry out a 24-hour strike at 38 hospitals.

“We are greatly encouraged by the huge turnout of members on picket lines at 38 hospitals across the country today. We also appreciate the support of the public, including patients and visitors to the hospitals, and of our colleagues in the health service,” Siptu Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said in a statement this afternoon. 

He confirmed that the three days of strike action will still take place next week from 2 July to 4 July if the dispute isn’t resolved. 

A HSE spokesperson said this evening that hospitals were facing “challenges” and that over 2,000 procedures and appointments were cancelled today. 

“Hospitals are facing challenges in maintaining essential daily care for our inpatients such as nutrition, hydration, transfer of patients, cleaning and infection control,” the spokesperson said. 

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Drivetime programme this evening, Minister for Health Simon Harris welcomed the news that talks will take place: “There is a period of time between now and when there are three further days of disruption scheduled for next week. And it cannot be beyond both sides to close the gap. I genuinely believe that can happen.”

However, he questioned the decision of Siptu not to take the dispute to the Labour Court. 

Harris also defended the government’s stance and said that it had shifted position significantly in negotiations.

“We moved significantly in relation to this dispute because I accept there is a legitimate issue here that these 10,000 people want resolved. But there also has to be a realism in terms of the implementation time frame and that’s really what the row is about,” he said.

Both sides need to “redouble” their efforts tomorrow as negotiations recommence, Harris added.

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The issue centres on a dispute between the workers and the HSE over what Siptu says is the failure to grant pay increases for its members, arising from a job evaluation scheme.

The workers affected include those in portering, household and catering services as well as employed as health care assistants, maternity care assistants, laboratory aides, chefs and surgical instrument technicians.

An initial strike by workers last week was postponed to allow talks at the WRC, aimed at averting the strike action, to take place on Monday.

With reporting by Stephen McDermott

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