Nurses at the Bon Secours Hospital in Renmore staged a lunchtime protest yesterday (Wednesday) to highlight what they claim is their employer’s decision to renege on a pay agreement brokered earlier this year.
The 90 members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation at the private hospital on the Dublin road took the action, which they say did not affect patient care, between 12.30pm and 1.30pm. Similar protests were held at the three other Bon Secours hospitals in Cork, Dublin and Tralee.
Noreen Muldoon, the union’s industrial relations officer in the west, says the protest came in the wake of growing dissatisfaction among its members.
“This action was undertaken to highlight INMO members’ dissatisfaction at the fact that their employer reneged on an agreement brokered with them in February at the Labour Relations Commission to repay five per cent of their salary to them,” she explains.
“Despite being formally notified that INMO members had rejected a Labour Court recommendation and notifying the employer that consent to cut salary did not exist, they deducted 10 per cent of INMO members’ salary without giving any notification on Friday June 25.”
She claims this is illegal and says by reneging on an agreement made with staff in February, which led to INMO members suspending industrial action scheduled to begin on February 8, the hospital created a “great deal of anger and disquiet” among union members.
Ms Muldoon says her union met with Bon Secours Hospital management in Cork on Tuesday but no progress was made.
“They have gone away to think and will revert to us in the next couple of weeks. We have arranged a meeting with our members in Galway next Wednesday. We will discuss where we are at and our next move and will proceed from there. We don’t have a mandate to do anything now. We have to put it to our members to take any action.”
She says there was a “fantastic” rapport between management and staff until last December.
However, by imposing pay cuts without consent, they are destroying the possibility of goodwill being being maintained, the INMO warns.
“It is such a pity to see this rapport change, it will take time to rebuild. Trust is something you earn, it won’t happen overnight. We want a good relationship to continue.”
In a statement the Bon Secours Health System says as a result of cuts in reimbursement rates imposed by private health insurers on January 1 the Bon Secours implemented a range of “cost containment measures” in January. These were taken to ensure the viability of the group and the sustainability of jobs and included a cut in pay rates.
”Bon Secours pay rates have historically been linked directly to HSE pay scales which were adjusted downwards in January 2010. The cut in pay rates implemented by Bon Secours was lower than the adjustment to rates in the HSE and was the lowest implemented across the private healthcare sector.
“Having engaged in a process of dialogue with staff and unions on the issue of these necessary pay cuts, efforts to reach agreement failed. The matter was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and, ultimately, to the Labour Court for resolution. The Labour Court issued its recommendation on April 30 and was accepted and implemented in full by Bon Secours Health System.
“Apart from the INMO, all other unions engaged in the negotiation process voted to accept the Labour Court recommendation. Bon Secours Health System, however, has recently been informed that INMO members have rejected the recommendation.”
The statement outlines that the Bon Secours Health System is “disappointed” by this rejection. “We regret the inconvenience caused to patients, visitors and other staff members arising from this intended protest action. Bon Secours Health System remains available to the INMO for discussion to resolve any staff concerns.”
The Bon Secours Hospital Galway is a 90 bed acute care facility providing a wide range of surgical and medical services. For more than 50 years, the hospital has participated in the healthcare needs of the people of Galway and the adjoining counties.
Work is under way on a €15 million expansion project which began near the end of 2009 and is expected to take approximately 18 months to complete. This will provide the private hospital with 50 new bedrooms, a new physiotherapy department and a dining room housed on three levels at the front of the hospital on the Dublin Road side. A new building has been constructed to the rear of the hospital as a forerunner to the main development, which accommodates expanded laboratory, stores and office accommodation.
The Bon Secours Health System is the largest private healthcare provider in Ireland, comprising four hospitals in Galway, Cork, Dublin and Tralee as well as Mount Desert Care Village in Cork.