INMO warns nurses' strike has only been suspended, not called off

As talks at the Labour Court over nurses' pay and conditions adjourned until next week the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation warns that it has only suspended its strike action, not called it off.

INMO general secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said the proposals originally put forward by management on a new contract would never be accepted in a nurses' ballot.

Last Friday the INMO presented the court with a written submission on why the Government's draft contract was unacceptable to its members. Key outstanding issues are working hours, rosters and location changes.

The court adjourned a hearing today after the INMO said it needs time to deal with a written response it had just received from management. The Labour Court will adjudicate on the contract issue when it reconvenes next Monday.

The court proposed a new higher-paid enhanced nurse practice grade that nurses could access within four years.

However, under the deal, the parties had to agree on flexible working hours and rosters in a Framework on Safe Staffing context.

Siptu, which represents 4,000 nurses, but did not take industrial action, also rejected the management proposals.

The Psychiatric Nurses Association which has 6,000 nurse members, is using a separate negotiation process and has not yet received a Labour Court recommendation.

Meanwhile, the INMO has criticised plans by University Hospital Limerick, the most overcrowded hospital in the country, to close an in-patient ward. There are 17 beds in the ward that are used primarily to treat patients who require short periods of admission.

The INMO pointed out that there were 76 admitted patients waiting for a hospital bed in UHL on Tuesday – 54 were waiting in the emergency department and 22 elsewhere in the hospital.

INMO industrial relations officer for Limerick, Mary Fogarty, said they made a written complaint about the planned ward closure to the hospital's chief executive: "We need to be going in the opposite direction.

Closing beds will only worsen Limerick's overcrowding crisis, leading to compromised treatment and patients being forced to wait on public corridors.

The UL Hospital group said staff and trade unions, including the INMO, were involved in the plan to close the short-stay 17-bed unit to allow the development of a new fracture unit, and that beds in other parts of the hospital are being used to make up the loss.

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