The Irish Nurses and Midwives’ Organisation (INMO) has said nurses must be prepared “to dig in for the long haul”, ahead of two further days of strikes this week.
More than 30,000 members of the INMO will take to the picket lines again tomorrow and Thursday, when further services will be brought into the strike.
The number of services affected has been increased from 80 to 240, with respite services in intellectual disability and care of the elderly now included.
The INMO announced two additional strike dates at the weekend — February 19 and 21, in addition to February 5 and 7, and February 12, 13 and 14.
“The fight to achieve parity of esteem with our peer group of degree-level health professionals is difficult and challenging and we must be prepared to dig in for the long haul,” said INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha.
“Next Tuesday and Thursday (Feb 5 and 7) we will repeat the 24-hour strikes unless the Government come to the table and provide a negotiating platform from which a solution can be achieved,” she said.
Ms Ní Sheaghdha said the national rally to be held on Saturday in Dublin is to show the Government that the public stood with them.
“We know from polls that 74% of the public support our strike,” she said.
She also hit out at the Government for not engaging directly with them.
The Psychiatric Nurses Association’s 6,000 nurse members will not be available to work overtime on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and plan to strike over three days next week.
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the pay issue could be looked at again, but he was not convinced it would produce a different outcome.
Mr Varadkar said the nurses had “technically” breached the public service stability agreement by going on strike, but the Government was not planning to sanction them.
“The sense we have in Government is that it would make it provocative and make it harder to resolve this dispute,” he said on RTÉ radio.
“At a certain point, we will have to treat the nurses the same as we treated the secondary school teachers. It would not be fair to treat the secondary school teachers differently than the nurses.”
Mr Varadkar said he knew that the nurses had enormous public support and did not think that support would diminish over the next couple of weeks, so the Government wanted a resolution.
“We have, through the Public Pay Commission, already examined nursing and midwifery pay and yes, we can do so again — but I am not convinced it will produce a different outcome,” he said.
The HSE has warned that all out-patient, in-patient and day surgery appointments will be cancelled if tomorrow’s industrial action goes ahead.
A spokesperson for the HSE said it remained available to engage in any efforts to avert industrial action.
“We are continuing to engage with the INMO to put in place arrangements for the safe provision of services in advance of Tuesday’s strike.”
Meanwhile, the National Association of General Practitioners has warned there may be “limited access” to GP services on Wednesday when hundreds of GPs protest outside the Dáil over cuts to the sector.