UP to 800 nurses in the country’s largest private hospital network will consider strike action if management refuses to return a 5% pay cut “unilaterally” implemented at the start of the year.
Speaking after a national protest by nursing staff at the Bon Secours hospitals in Cork, Dublin, Tralee and Galway, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said the group may have to resort to the nuclear option if no breakthrough is made.
Between 1pm and 2pm yesterday, up to 800 nurses working in the private facilities participated in rotating 20-minute protests on the grounds of the hospitals. The union members, who were supported by past and present patients, allege management has failed to agree to a Labour Relations Commission (LRC) deal from February to restore a 5% pay cut implemented in January.
“We are meeting to discuss all options and will have a decision on what will take place after the protests in the last 24 hours early next week,” a spokesperson for the INMO explained.
“We don’t want to have to strike or take industrial action, but we may not have any option.
“That won’t be our first choice, but we are considering it, if the issue is not resolved by next week,” she said.
Bon Secours representatives have insisted the cutbacks were needed to “ensure the viability of the group and the sustainability of jobs” which have been under threat due to new private health insurer reimbursement rates.
However, the INMO said the cuts were announced in December, before the new rates were implemented in January.
The LRC initially warned the Bon Secours it was in breach of the Payment of Wages Act as it imposed pay cuts.
It said the deducted money should be restored regardless of the outcome of discussions.
However, a subsequent decision by the Labour Court led to the pay cuts being upheld, with a May 1 deadline set for the commencement of the deductions.
At this stage, the initial 5% cut from the December-January wages has yet to be repaid, as previously agreed by the LRC.
As a result, the INMO objected to the May 1 deductions commencement date, which was deferred until June 25, when a 10% cut for May and June took place.
The INMO has alleged that this 10% deduction was an illegal step by management, a claim the Bon Secours group denies.
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