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Labour Court to hold talks this afternoon between unions and government as nurses strike looms

Minister Paschal Donohoe issued a warning earlier today over reaching a pay deal with nurses.

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha
INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha
Image: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

Updated Jan 28th 2019, 3:55 PM

INFORMAL TALKS ARE set to take place at the Labour Court this afternoon involving representatives of the government and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), as the proposed strike action gets closer.

The work stoppage of nurses working in emergency departments, emergency theatres, in-patient and other wards, is due to take place on Wednesday. 

The union’s members will withdraw their labour for a 24-hour period over low wages and retention issues. 

With further days of action planned in February if their issues are not addressed, the decision to strike follows a vote in December where 95% of INMO nurses and midwives balloted in favour of industrial action. 

In a statement, an INMO spokesperson said it would be approaching today’s talks at the Labour Court “in good faith”.

“But the ball is firmly in the government’s court,” the spokesperson said. “They need to make serious proposals if they are to avert industrial action.

Strike preparations continue. We are extremely grateful for the outpouring of support from the public, our colleagues in the health service, and from Irish nurses and midwives working overseas.

Earlier, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe warned that when it comes to the nurses’ strike, he won’t be going down the same road as he did with the Garda pay deal two years ago. 

Speaking about the impending strike action, Donohoe cited the Garda pay deal, which conceded to a €50 million pay package in a bid to avert strike action by the gardaí. 

“Within one day we had wage demands,” he said, stating that such a move prompted other trade unions representing civil servants in other areas to demand pay increases. 

As a result, the minister said he had to find additional funding in order to give public servants a €1,000 pay rise earlier than was expected. 

He warned that to do the same, would trigger costs a lot higher than the Garda pay deal did. 

“The cost would be even higher,” he said, adding that for that reason the wage agreement is so vital, particularly at a time of “economic instability in our State” due to Brexit.

Donohoe said the government appreciates the work nurses do every day in our hospitals, but he added that their work is “anchored in the fact that we have a public pay agreement with every single one of our civil servants”.

He said the government is willing to engage in the State’s industrial relations machinery over the next 48 hours, however, he clarified that there can be no change to the existing agreement as it would spark additional wage demands.

“The Government cannot allow the wage agreement to unravel,” Donohoe said.

With reporting from Sean Murray

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