Two nursing unions are set to ballot 46,000 members for strike action next week over concerns that pay is too low to recruit and retain staff.
Following a special meeting yesterday of its National Executive Committee, the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) is recommending that its 6,000 members vote in favour of industrial action in a ballot which will commence next Wednesday.
Meanwhile, some 40,000 members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) are due to begin voting on strike action from next Monday.
The INMO’s decision to ballot its members for industrial action, up to and including strike, follows a two-week “cooling-off period” after it announced its intention to ballot, to give the Government and the HSE time to come forward with meaningful pay proposals.
There has been no breakthrough to date.
Last night, PNA general secretary Peter Hughes said the outcome of the NEC meeting “reflected the disappointment by mental health nurses that the recent Public Service Pay Commission Report had failed completely to understand the scale of the recruitment and retention crisis in the mental health services and their frustration at the continued lack of realistic proposals to address nurse recruitment and retention”.
Last month, the INMO’s members overwhelmingly rejected proposals from the commission.
The commission recommended increases in some allowances and greater access to promotional posts but did not find there was a case for addressing pay.
The INMO is seeking an across-the-board pay rise to deal with recruitment and retention problems.
It said structures will be put in place for the maintenance of essential and emergency services, but otherwise, members will be on the picket line with 24-hour work stoppages, beginning with one day a week and escalating to two days the following week.
If strike action goes ahead, it could coincide with the Christmas and New Year period, which is traditionally the busiest time of the year for many hospitals. Disruption is likely to be severe.
According to the INMO, nurses and midwives “are the lowest paid professionals in the health service, which is why the HSE is finding it impossible to recruit or retain”.