Siptu has said its members in nursing will not follow their colleagues in other unions in striking over pay increases.
The union’s stance comes following the announcement that members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation are to hold a series of 24-hour strikes starting on January 30.
However Siptu Health Division Organiser Paul Bell said his union - which has some 4,000 members in nursing - believes the INMO decision could jeopardise the Public Service Agreement.
“Our comrades in the INMO are pursuing a particular strategy in a particular way, we are pursuing a strategy for nurses’ pay through the Public Service Agreement,” Mr Bell said.
He said that while it will be a ‘difficult challenge’ for Siptu members to walk past an INMO picket, his union does not share the nursing union's opinion that the improvements they seek will not bring down the broader public sector pay agreement.
“We do not believe that stepping outside process will deliver what we want to achieve over the short to medium term," Mr Bell told RTÉ Radio 1’s Today programme. “This year, in September, there's a 1.75% pay increase due under the Public Service Agreement and in October next year there's a 2% agreed pay increase due. We are also concerned that if we get involved in disputes outside of process that those payments will be withheld from our members. Government are indicating that to us all the time.
“We’re pursuing the strategy of making sure that our members are getting the benefits of the public service agreements and indeed whatever comes out of future negotiations."
Speaking on the same programme, Dave Hughes, Deputy Secretary General of the INMO said Siptu was entitled to its opinion but what his members are seeking is pay restoration following recession-era cuts, not pay increases.
He also said that those who accuse striking nurses of jeopardising patient health are “ignoring the risks that are big run every day in our in our public health service”.
“We have four or five hospitals that are continuously in what is called full capacity protocol, which means all their beds are full and they have additional beds in spaces between beds.
“That is highly risky, doctors are coming out to say that there are unnecessary deaths happening because of overcrowding, and there's empirical evidence to prove it.
“So to ignore and pretend that we have a perfect health system when we don't where a large part of that problem is the inability to recruit and retain nurses is not living in reality,” he said.
According to the INMO's Trolley Watch there were 565 patients on trolleys yesterday.
Cork University Hospital had the highest number with 70 patients on trolleys, according to the INMO.