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Dublin: 0 °C Thursday 17 January, 2019
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Taoiseach says he's saddened that nurses decided to strike on a weekday

He said he’d have preferred the weekend.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar meeting with the Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta earlier this week.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar meeting with the Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta earlier this week.
Image: Merrion Street

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR said he was “saddened” to hear that nurses had decided to strike during the week rather than at the weekend. 

Speaking during his trip to Africa, Varadkar said that the knock-on effect from the midweek industrial action will be greater than if nurses decided to strike at the weekend. 

Yesterday it emerged that nurses and midwives will hold a strike on Wednesday 30 January, with further days of action planned in February if their issues are not addressed. 

The strike will see the INMO members withdraw their labour for a 24-hour period over low wages and retention issues. 

Speaking today, Varadkar said: “We will do everything we can to avoid a strike, but ultimately it is a decision by the unions to go on strike. I am saddened that the unions have taken a decision to strike on a Wednesday.

They had the option of striking on a Saturday or Sunday, which would have had the same political impact and out the same amount of pressure on the Government to resolve the problem and engage, but it wouldn’t have had such a big impact on patients.

“A strike on a Wednesday means that thousands of operations will be cancelled and thousands of clinic appointments will be cancelled.”

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) were not impressed by the Taoiseach’s response. 

A statement posted on their Twitter account read: “Nurses and midwives care for patients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Whether it’s a Wednesday or a weekend, the Taoiseach and his government should be aiming to resolve this dispute before it gets to a strike.”

The INMO said that wages in nursing and midwifery are too low to recruit and retain enough staff for a safe health service.
“The number of staff nurses fell by 1,754 (6%) between 2008 and 2018, despite an ageing, growing population making the health service busier,” yesterday afternoon’s statement from said.

Student nurses and midwives earn €14,243 a year under the current public sector pay deal; staff nurses earn €29,056 per annum in the first three months, and €31,110 per annum in the latter nine months of their first year. A senior staff nurse earns €47,898 a year.

The last pay agreement contained wage increases of 6.4% to 7.2% over 2018-2020.

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