Strikes set to resume as nurses push back on deal

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) will face an uphill struggle to convince its members to accept the Labour Court’s pay recommendation, raising the likelihood nurses that could soon return to picket lines.

The bulk of members taking to social media and the airwaves yesterday expressed their anger at the terms, which Finance Minister Pascal Donohoe said would cost up to €15m this year and up to €35m next year.

Some maintained the strike should not have been suspended because of what was offered after marathon talks involving the union.

“I feel so disillusioned and frustrated at the moment,” wrote Annemarie Treacy, a staff nurse at St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny, on the INMO’s Facebook page. “Is all the struggle and effort over the last few weeks going to count for nothing??? Pay parity or no deal. Back out on the picket lines until we get what we asked for.”

A number of younger nurses said they believed they got nothing from the deal and felt let down.

Responding, an INMO spokesperson said they were working “flat out” to ensures that members, the executive, and strike committees got accurate, clear information as soon as possible.

The spokesperson said the Labour Court recommendation did not include every proposal, nor did it include vital information on how changes in pay and allowances would be implemented.

“The INMO is asking members to wait for a full briefing in the coming days on what these proposals involve.”

The INMO’s executive and strike committees will meet today to discuss the recommendation. Regional and workplace meetings will be held over the next two to three weeks before nurses vote on the proposals.

The public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions will also closely consider what has been offered to the nurses in light of the Public Service Stability Agreement for all public servants.

The Teachers Union of Ireland said it would analyse the recommendation in the context of its campaign to end pay and discrimination “and the severe difficulties schools are experiencing in employing teachers” — retention and recruitment played a big part in nurses taking to the picket line.

Siptu, which has nurses among its membership, said it intends to consult widely with its members in the health division and others across the public service.

In relation to how other unions would respond to the agreement, Mr Donohoe said that was a matter for those unions.

The Labour Court recommendation for nurses allows for a new enhanced nurse practice grade from March 1 with a new eight-point pay scale from €35,806 to €45,841 — a pay rise of about 7.5% compared to the current scale. However, nurses will have to work for the HSE for four years before they can move to the enhanced nurse practice scale.

A new nursing contract will require a shift in work to the community and implementation of new approaches in chronic condition management. The contract will also support the implementation of Sláintecare and other health strategies associated with the development of community services.

The parties will also agree to flexibility and assessment of rosters in the context of the Framework on Safe Staffing, and there will be a review of staffing and skill mix in all areas including ambulatory and outpatients areas.

The productivity measures will apply to all nurses on the new enhanced nurse practice scales. However, nurses who remain on the existing contract will remain on the existing nursing scale.

The deal also allows for the number of advanced nurse practitioners to be increased to a minimum of 2% of the nursing workforce. Also, public health nurses in midwifery services are to be included in the extension of location/qualification allowances proposed by the Public Service Pay Commission.

The productivity measures together with staff changing to the enhanced nurse practice salary scale will lead to the delivery of “significant savings”, the document states. However, it warns that failure to deliver the savings by the end of this year will cause the initiative to be paused.

The Labour Court also recommends that there should be an expert review of the nursing profession.

More on this topic

Three in five nurses vote to accept Labour Court proposals

Majority of nurses see contract as ‘good deal’

INMO recommends that members vote for Labour Court proposals

INMO warns nurses' strike has only been suspended, not called off

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