Winter of discontent could be looming

From Dublin Bus to train and Luas drivers, from ambulance staff to nursing — we are experiencing some of the worst industrial unrest in recent years.

We are told that the economic recovery is continuing and that unemployment is coming down. That is true, up to a point, but the reality is that wages and salaries have not caught up with the cost of living. Housing, education, health, and transport costs are rising all the time, while Ireland has the second-highest rate of low-paid workers in the world.

We are also experiencing an enormous ‘brain drain’ as thousands of graduates continue to emigrate every year.

Take, for instance, our health services. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has said the HSE’s recruitment plan for new nurses has failed.

The HSE insists there is no moratorium on hiring, but the service is only offering new nursing recruits three-month contracts, while UK health authorities are offering full-time jobs. Likewise, the ambulance staff dispute. Strike notice was served on the HSE last month after a landslide vote by Siptu members for industrial action. The dispute is not just about pay, but about underesourcing this essential service.

Meanwhile, drivers at Dublin Bus and train drivers at Iarnród Éireann are balloting for industrial action.

If the Government does not face up to the reality of this unrest, we could be facing a winter of discontent.


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