The strike would be a major embarrassment to the Mid-Western Health Board (MWHB) if it goes ahead, as it would scuttle the implementation of the first phase of the Hanly Report the region was yesterday selected as the first pilot area to test the report's medical manpower recommendations.
Theatre nurses are pivotal to the implementation of the Hanly Report as no operations can take place without them, SIPTU branch secretary Tony Doody said.
"The 80 theatre nurses we represent are very angry with the health board they were awarded the new on-call rates last July and the management has not even bothered to tell them when they will get this money," Mr Doody said.
The health board said in a statement it would implement in full the terms of the agreement reached nationally and it is clarifying some aspects of facilitating its implementation.
The board said it was available for discussions with the trade union but did not say when it intends to pay the new on-call rate or why it has ignored union correspondence.
The theatre nurses will mount a protest at Limerick Regional Hospital at the weekend and if they get no response the action will escalate to a strike, Mr Doody said.
The dispute started in September 2002 when theatre nurses in Limerick, Ennis and Nenagh first operated a work-to-rule for better on-call pay rates.
At the time they were receiving just €1 an hour for being on call or €17 a night. The payment had not increased for five years even though their workload had increased tenfold, according to SIPTU.
The dispute escalated to a strike in February this year and following the intervention of the Labour Relations Commission a settlement was agreed.
Under the terms of the new agreement, the theatre nurses are to get 36 a night plus a flat fee for each case they handle. This was backdated to January of this year.