Ambulance staff warn more industrial action is on the way

Ambulance staff warn more industrial action is on the way
Some of the National Ambulance Service staff pictured at Kinsale Road, Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Ambulance staff engaged in a 10-hour work stoppage have warned that more industrial action is on the way.

Around 500 ambulance personnel belonging to the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) staged the work stoppage from 7am to 5pm, with the HSE having to put in contingency efforts to minimise disruption to patients.

The strike action was due to the Health Service Executive's refusal to recognise the PNA and their associated ambulance personnel, the National Ambulance Service Representative Association. Of the other 1,300 ambulance personnel, most are members of Siptu.

PNA spokesman, Derek Cunningham, said the first day of industrial action was very successful, with high turn-outs at pickets at different locations around the country.

He also warned that more work stoppages will be on the way unless the HSE changes its stance: "If the HSE are not willing to engage on this substantive matter there will be further industrial action, and that will be decided in the next day or two."

Pickets were held in different locations from Letterkenny to Castletownbere, although the PNA had allowed for responses to top level 'alpha' call-outs.

Apart from that, contingency measures included the deployment when and where necessary of ambulances from the Defence Forces fleet.

The director of the HSE’s national ambulance service, Martin Dunne, told RTE's News At One programme that some of those ambulances were used: “We have used the army. Their vehicles are of the same standard and they are fully trained paramedics.”

Mr Dunne said it was a "challenging morning", during which time there were 265 calls to the national ambulance service, which would be typical.

In a statement, the HSE said the National Ambulance Service (NAS) was managing the situation during the period of industrial action, "despite the challenges being experienced".

Some of the National Ambulance Service staff pictured at Kinsale Road, Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Some of the National Ambulance Service staff pictured at Kinsale Road, Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane.

A HSE spokesperson said the "robust contingency plan" was implemented nationally with the aim of ensuring that service and care delivery were not compromised.

"We would reiterate that the National Ambulance Service is committed to maintaining positive industrial relations with all staff," the HSE said.

"Ambulance personnel are well represented through agreed industrial relations processes. The National Ambulance Service recognises SIPTU, UNITE and FORSA for staff in the service. In particular, SIPTU is the recognised trade union for front-line staff. Recognition of other associations or unions would undermine the positive engagement that exists and would impair good industrial relations in the National Ambulance Service.

"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. 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 National Ambulance Service will stand by the agreements that it has made with recognised unions and that this approach is in keeping within Government policy.

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