Nurses and midwives 'more than likely' to ballot for strike

Siptu nurses and midwives are “more than likely” to ballot for strike action over recruitment and retention of staff, writes Conall Ó Fátharta, Irish Examiner Reporter.

The threat comes just a day after the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) gave health service managers given 24 hours to improve proposals on staff recruitment and retention — or face the likelihood of being served notice of industrial action as early as today.

Following a meeting of its National Nursing and Midwifery Committee yesterday, Siptu has now said that its 4,000 nursing members are now “more than likely” to ballot for strike action in an attempt to force a solution to this dispute.

The union’s health division organiser Paul Bell said the health service management needed to “get real” and treat the issue of staff recruitment and retention as a matter of urgency.

“We remain open to any meaningful engagement with management in our efforts to resolve this long-running dispute. However, it is now obvious to all that if this Government is serious about recruiting and retaining the services of nursing professionals the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, must become visibly involved in the talks process.”

“There is an urgent need for the Minister to provide a focus on creating the environment necessary to bring about a settlement of this dispute,” he said.

Mr Bell said both the minister and the Department of Health had already accepted that there is a labour market crisis in the health service regarding nurses and midwives and that it was “time to provide a solution that will end this emergency once and for all”.

On Monday night, talks between the INMO and management ended without agreement on the issue.

Among the points of contention for the union were the refusal by the HSE and the Department of Health to allow directors of nursing and midwifery to fill all posts which become vacant in 2017; the refusal to guarantee that sufficient funding would be made available to allow the permanent employment of all Irish-trained nurses and midwives graduating in 2016/2017 and the refusal to guarantee replacement of maternity leave vacancies on a one-for-one basis.

The union said the net effect of this would be that “the crisis remains and will continue to destabilise the delivery of safe patient care”.

The INMO accused management of a “total rowback” on a previous commitment to a funded workforce plan for 2017.

The union’s executive council is scheduled to meet today to consider the current position in the context of the recent national ballot for industrial action.

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