Patients face disruption due to row at hospitals

HOSPITAL patients in the west are facing major disruption from next Monday, with nurses and ward clerks mounting industrial action in a row over pay and planned job losses.

Services at hospitals in Galway and the mid-west will be affected by the escalation of industrial unrest among medical staff in the region.

Theatre nurses at Limerick Regional Hospital and Nenagh and Ennis General Hospitals voted yesterday to stage a work-to-rule in a dispute over pay for on-call duty from next week. Ward clerks belonging to SIPTU are also planning to commence similar work-to-rule action at University College Hospital, Galway on Monday.

About 80 members of the Irish Nurses Organisation at the three Mid-West Health Board hospitals will refuse to perform any non-nursing duties as a result of their action.

INO spokesperson Helen Rouine said yesterday the protest was likely to cause some delays in surgical procedures at the affected hospitals. However, she insisted that nurses felt their action was necessary to highlight what they claim are “totally unacceptable” pay rates of less than 1 for on-call duty. “The national rate of on-call payments is completely inadequate and outdated,” said Ms Rouine. She confirmed that nurses would also stage one-hour protests at the three hospitals on Monday afternoon. Further talks between SIPTU and the Western Health Board will also be held tomorrow in attempt to avert the planned work-to-rule by ward staff at UCH, Galway. Union members will refuse to perform important back-up services for medical staff from next Monday in protest at planned job cuts among clerical staff by the WHB. Talks between IMPACT representatives and the WHB yesterday to discuss the planned axing of almost 170 WHB healthcare workers were also adjourned until next week. Union national secretary Kevin Callinan has asked the board to find alternative ways of saving 1m than laying off WHB administrative staff.

IMPACT has already warned that it will refuse to cover the work of 800 posts being axed or left vacant by Government health cuts across all eight health boards later this month.

Meanwhile, the dispute between butchers at Superquinn and management over demands for an 8% pay is over following a hearing at the Labour Court.

SIPTU spokesman Brendan Carr welcomed the court’s decision to recommend full payment of the butchers’ claims, to be backdated to September last year, although they have also agreed to the company’s demand that they handle all fresh food products.

Elsewhere, in a positive development for the Government, the country’s largest trade union, SIPTU, has voted overwhelmingly to enter talks on a new national wage agreement.

At a special conference in Dublin yesterday, more than 600 delegates mandated the union leadership to vote in favour of beginning fresh discussions with the Government and employer groups on a successor to the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness, which ends this year.

It is expected that the strength of the SIPTU vote will swing the vote in favour of entering new talks at a special meeting of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to discuss the issue next Tuesday.

However, SIPTU vice president Jack O’Connor, said there was no guarantee that any talks would lead to acceptance of a new deal.

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