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'You ought to intervene directly': Opposition calls on Varadkar to step in to avert nurses strike

The 24-hour stoppage looks likely to go ahead after Labour Court talks ended without agreement last night.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking during Leaders Questions today
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking during Leaders Questions today
Image: Oireachtas TV

Updated Jan 29th 2019, 2:00 PM

OPPOSITION TDs HAVE criticised Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for not intervening personally in the nurses dispute, as tomorrow’s 24-hour strike action looms. 

Speaking in the Dáil during Leaders Questions this afternoon, Varadkar  said that the government would likely obey a Labour Court recommendation should it formally intercede in the dispute.

However, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald told Varadkar that “you, as head of government, ought to intervene directly” to avert tomorrow’s strike action. 

Varadkar responded by saying that any solution to the dispute must be fair to all parties, including patients and other public servants who are seeking pay rises. 

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith accused the Taoiseach of using Brexit as a “stick to beat the nurses with.”

With the threat of a no-deal Brexit looming, Varadkar said that economic uncertainty was on the horizon and that, in the coming months, talk may shift to “job losses…not pay rises.”

Tomorrow’s nurses strike is set to go ahead after exploratory talks at the Labour Court ended last night without agreement. 

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has said that strike preparations for the 24-hour stoppage continue and that the court will decide later today on whether or not formal intervention in the dispute is necessary. 

The INMO, which has over 40,000 members, announced strike action earlier this month. In a ballot held in November, over 90% of members that were polled voted in favour of industrial action.

Nurses have argued for measures to deal with what they called the recruitment and retention crisis among members. They said that increasing nurses’ pay was the only way to retain nurses, and that this in turn would improve working conditions.

Meanwhile, the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) has announced two further strike days in an ongoing dispute over union recognition. 

The PNA has said that the HSE has refused to recognise Nasra, the PNA ambulance personnel branch,  as a representative body for members of the National Ambulance Service.

The PNA strike dates have yet to be announced. 

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