Ambulance personnel nationwide are to go on strike for 24 hours in a further escalation of a row over union representation with the HSE.
Six strike days have already been staged by more than 500 ambulance staff nationwide since January in their stand-off with the Executive, as they want their right to be represented by a trade union of their choice.
At an emergency general meeting in Mullingar, Co Westmeath held today members of the National Ambulance Service Representative (NASRA) which is a branch of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) backed union representatives calls to increase strike action.
The union represents paramedics, advanced paramedics and emergency medical technicians.
There also remains a threat of psychiatric nurses joining the strike in support of their colleagues.
A date for the 24-hour strike will be announced on May 2 at the annual conference of the PNA.
The members totally reject continued efforts by the HSE to force them to be members of unions they do not want to join.
Peter Hughes, PNA General Secretary, said: "The PNA ambulance branch has successfully represented the interests of its members since the branch was established in 2010.
“The HSE has arbitrarily decided that because growing numbers of ambulance personnel are joining the PNA ambulance branch that it would simply refuse to engage with it or allow the branch to continue to represent these frontline health workers.
“No union can allow its members to be treated in this way by an employer, and in continuing their strike action tomorrow ambulance personnel are showing their determination to stand up for their basic right to union membership and representation.”
Sources within NASRA confirmed that frustration is “running high” with members, that the HSE will not agree to talks with the Work Place Relations Commission and the threat that “all PNA members” will go out on strike in sympathy with their ambulance colleagues, “now looms large”.
A source added:
The ongoing strike is the first time in 100 years that members of the Ambulance service have taken to the picket line as an independent body - separate to other HSE employees.
The HSE has consistently insisted that the PNA does not have negotiating rights and said they will only deal with the union Siptu.
They would also not comment on High Court moves to gain an injunction.
However, the Executive defended its stances in relation to NASRA and said ambulance personnel were well represented through agreed industrial relations processes.
Contingency plans for ambulance cover will be put in place with Army personnel expected to provide back-up support as they did previously.