The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation is poised to take further strike action if they are unhappy with the Labour Court’s imminent recommendation on a draft contract for nurses and midwives. Following the two-and-a-half hour formal court hearing on the disputed contract yesterday, the nurses’ union warned that the threat of further industrial action remained.
The contract is the most contentious part of the negotiations on a resolution of the dispute. INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha told the court that the contract proposals were “totally counterproductive” and would represent “a step back” for recruitment and retention of nurses and midwives.
“The rigidities in the contract on work hours and location are particularly difficult for those with families and for carers, which is a particular problem in a majority female profession,” she said.
The 22 nurses and midwives who form the INMO’s executive council are “on standby” to meet on Friday and strike committee representatives are set to meet on Monday. An INMO spokesperson said they were hoping that the court would issue its recommendation before the end of the week.
If the executive is still unhappy with the recommendation, it will tell the strike committee to make preparations for further industrial action. If the recommendation goes down well with the executive, the role of the strike committee will be to disseminate information and begin balloting over 40,000 members.
The spokesperson said that it was still engaging with employers on the terms of reference for the independent expert group that will review the nursing profession and how the Government would fund the Safe Staffing Framework. Meanwhile, Siptu nursing representatives also made their case for a fair contract at the Labour Court.
Siptu health division organiser Paul Bell said the representatives put forward “a robust defence” of the rights of their 4,000 members and also highlighted what they saw as “an act of opportunism” by the Government to erode hard fought for terms and conditions.
“It is clear to our members that the Government is attempting to force through the same major changes to work practices that unions fought against during the Public service Stability Agreement negotiations,” said Mr Bell. “Siptu representatives campaigned against those changes then and we stand against them now.”
Siptu nursing sector organiser Kevin Figgis said they told the court that proposals to move nurses or midwives to another location up to 45kms away on a daily or week by week basis had no place in the health service.
“Equally, proposals for nurse and midwives to work shifts of as little as four hours in duration stand no chance of acceptance by our members,” said Mr Figgis.