A 24-hour long strike is to be held by more than 500 ambulance personnel nationwide on Friday in an ongoing row over union recognition.
The almost year-long impasse has resulted in protracted strikes and are planned to continue until the Health Service Executive (HSE) agrees to negotiations and the agreement that union members from the National Ambulance Service Representative (NASRA) branch of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) will be recognised.
The union represents paramedics, advanced paramedics and emergency medical technicians
NASRA have confirmed that the strikes will take place on May 31 and June 1, the start of the bank holiday weekend. More 24-hour strikes will follow on dates yet to be announced by the union in the coming weeks.
Peter Hughes, PNA General Secretary, said once again the HSE was forcing an escalation in a dispute that is entirely of the HSE’s making. To date, PNA ambulance branch members have engaged in a work to rule and have undertaken six strike days since the dispute began.
Mr Hughes said: “It has become very clear that not alone has the HSE refused to engage in the normal industrial relations protocol of agreeing contingency plans for our previous strike days, but it has also exploited the professionalism and dedication of ambulance personnel to ensure that ambulance services are provided even in a strike situation.
“HSE management have sat back and placed the responsibility of maintaining ambulance cover on our members. As we move to 24 hour strikes it is incumbent on the Executive to comply with custom and practice and negotiate contingency arrangements for the planned (day-long) strike days.”
He added: “The demand by more than 500 of our members to be members of, and represented by, the PNA now has strong cross-party political support in the Dáil. However, despite (the Minister for Health’s) comments in the Dáil that he wants this dispute referred to the Workplace Relations Commission, the Minister Simon Harris has been incapable of bringing the HSE to its senses and ending this divisive dispute.”
It should now be a priority for the new HSE Director General, Paul Reid, to bring this dispute to an end, and stop trying to force ambulance personnel into unions that they have made it clear they are not prepared to be members of. Mr Reid has an opportunity to end this dispute which is impacting on performance and morale within the ambulance services - a vital area of frontline health services.
The ongoing strike is the first time in 100 years that members of the Ambulance service have taken to the picket line as an independent body - separate to other HSE employees.
The HSE has consistently insisted that the PNA does not have negotiating rights and said they will only deal with the union Siptu. They would also not comment on High Court moves to gain an injunction.
However, the Executive defended its stances in relation to NASRA and said ambulance personnel were well represented through agreed industrial relations processes.
Army ambulance crews helped shore up services during six previous 12-hour strikes and are expected to be on standby again.