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Public Sector Pay

Government says it 'can only spend each euro once' as nurses to ballot for industrial action

Members reported extreme anger from nurses and midwives in the front line which sparked an appetite for industrial action.

27/9/2016. Dail Back From Holidays Sam Boal Sam Boal

NURSES AND MIDWIVES are considering industrial action after a unanimous vote by their trade union this afternoon.

Following a meeting by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), members unanimously voted to ballot its members in protest at their current working environment and the failure of management to recruit and retain nursing and midwifery staff.

Nurses say their health and safety, and that of patients, is compromised on a daily basis. Speaking at a press conference held by the INMO, Mary Leahy said:

We know there’s miscare everyday. So today this is why we are taking a stand, for our patients, and to improve the quality of standard care for our nurses going to work everyday and to retain the nurses that are on the ground.

After 12 regional meetings, individual members reported “extreme anger” from nurses and midwives on the frontline. The meetings were supplied with multiple examples of:

  • Chronic persistent overcrowding with no additional staff
  • Excessive working hours (unpaid)
  • Repeated episodes of missed care, in acute, care of the elderly and disability services, with up to 30 patients being left under the sole care of third year students
  • Community services which are unable to fulfil statutory functions and are held together purely by nurses carrying excessive workloads and having to work extended unpaid additional hours.

It comes as 66 patients patients were on trolleys awaiting beds at University Hospital Limerick this morning.

INMO Industrial Relations Officer, Mary Fogarty said, “The last 6-12 months has seen a significant deterioration at University Hospital Limerick.

“Despite the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) proposals from February 2016 and, meeting locally with hospital management, the situation at the University Hospital Limerick has significantly deteriorated.”


Minister for Health Simon Harris responded to the announcement this evening, welcoming the INMO’s commitment to the Lansdowne Road agreement and saying that he looked forward to meeting with the INMO next week.

“I am very well aware of the challenges with recruiting staff nurses and nurses with specialist skills in specific areas. We are competing with all other western countries to attract and retain nurses in specific areas.

In a lengthy statement, the Minister listed the measures implemented that aimed to improve conditions for nurses and recruit more staff, while maintaining that this needed to continue under the Lansdowne Road agreement.

In comments to journalists earlier today, Minister for Expenditure Paschal Donohoe said that pay negotiations needed to “be done in a way that was fair affordable for everybody”.

He said Lansdowne Road offers the best framework to offer that fairness, adding that the agreement has “joint benefits” that “can work and will work”.

Although he acknowledged the importance of frontline services, he said that “we can only spend each euro once”.

Any change in the Lansdowne Road agreement will have a significant consequences on the delivery of public services.

He added that there needed to be a “collective” approach in dealing with the demands of other unions.

He said challenges can surface when the perception prevails about the benefits that one group are getting.

This has to be fair to everybody – it has to be fair to people that are not inside the public services, who work in the private sector, who work in all kind of different organisations – I have to be fair to everybody.

Donohoe met officers from the Public Service Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions yesterday and he said he listened to the views of the parties – but said he emphasised that any change at all to the agreement has “very serious consequences” to the government’s ability to fund public services while maintaining tax levels that are crucial.

When asked if he was saying that there was no funds available to other demands made by other sectors, Donohoe said:

What I am saying is that any change within the Lansdowne Road agreement will have very significant consequences for the delivery of other public services.

“To believe that we can increase wages and change agreements without there being consequences elsewhere is not a recommendation I want to take to government.”

Level of anger palpable

Speaking this afternoon INMO President Martina Harkin-Kelly said:

“Our members have spoken and have clearly indicated they can no longer endure the working environment and will no longer accept having their professional judgement disrespected or ignored by management.

Nursing and midwifery is in crisis and our health services are failing to meet the needs of patients. This action is absolutely necessary, and justified, in the interests of patients and our members.

“Accepted worldwide evidence demonstrates that patients are safest and mortality rates lower when there are sufficient nurses and midwives working in positive environments providing their care.”

INMO General Secretary Liam Doran said:

The level of anger, within our membership, was palpable at the recent meetings.

“This action seeks to have government and management come forward with special initiatives that will attract and retain the required number of nurses and midwives to staff our service safely and expand it to meet ever increasing demand.

“In addition we will, in conjunction with our public service union colleagues, participate in early discussions, with government, which must deliver an acceleration in the restoration of pay and other conditions of employment which were cut in recent years.”

With additional reporting by Cliódhna Russell and Christina Finn.

Read: More unions line up to question Lansdowne Road as all-out industrial strife looms

Read: Here’s how much cash the average garda stands to gain from the pay deal

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