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Dublin: 18 °C Thursday 19 September, 2019
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500 ambulance staff beginning 24-hour strike today in a row over union recognition

Workers have already staged work stoppages in January, February and March.

Image: Leon Farrell via RollingNews.ie

OVER 500 AMBULANCE personnel members of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) are to strike for 24 hours from 7am this morning. 

The strike is being held in pursuit of members’ demand for the right to be represented by the PNA as the union of their choice. 

Today’s strike will be held across the country and involves paramedics, advanced paramedics and emergency medical technicians. 

The dispute centres on the demand that the HSE recognises their union.

The dispute is separate from the industrial action taken earlier this year over pay and staffing levels being undertaken by thousands of psychiatric nurses who are also PNA members.

PNA general secretary Peter Hughes claimed that the HSE has refused to engage in normal industrial protocol of agreeing contingency planning where notice is given of  industrial action involving the emergency services.

“After six days of strike action and an escalation now to 24-hour strike, our ambulance branch members could not be clearer that the dispute is not ‘going away’ and their resolve and determination to be allowed join and represented by the PNA (which has been the case since 2010) is as strong as ever,” Hughes said.

Workers have already staged work stoppages in January, February and March. 

HSE stance

The HSE has said the National Ambulance Service (NAS) is currently developing robust contingency plans for tomorrow’s strike action. 

In a statement, the HSE said NAS recognises that there may be challenges, however, their “continued priority is the delivery of a safe service for the public”. 

We would reiterate that the National Ambulance Service is committed to maintaining positive industrial relations with all staff.  Ambulance personnel are well represented through agreed industrial relations processes.

The HSE said NAS recognises Siptu, Unite and Forsa trade unions for staff in the service. 

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

“It is a well-established principle of public policy that fragmentation of union representation in the public sector is not in the interests either of the public or of workers,” it said.

For that reason where grades of employee already have strong representation rights – as is the case in the National Ambulance Service – it is not appropriate for employers to recognise break-away unions.  Recognising break-away unions has a destabilising effect on good industrial relations.

The HSE said the “principle of engaging only with recognised trade unions” has been acknowledged previously by the Labour Court in a dispute involving the PNA and a different public-sector employer. 

“With this in mind, National Ambulance Service  will stand by the agreements that it has made with recognised unions and will not undermine those agreements by engaging with other associations or unions,” the HSE said.

The PNA has confirmed that further 24-hour strikes will follow on dates to be announced over the coming weeks. 

“This campaign is continuing. There is a strong level of resolve among the ambulance personnel involved that they should be afforded the right to join a union of their choice and be represented by that union,” a spokesperson for the PNA told TheJournal.ie.

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