SIPTU members in HSE West are to be balloted for industrial action following the failure of management to engage in discussions over threatened job cuts. The union’s senior health organiser, Paul Bell, stated it was necessary to hold a protective strike ballot in case management decides to act unilaterally and implement the sort of cuts being leaked to the media in recent days.
Mr Bell has written to the Labour Relations Commission notifying it of the potential for a serious dispute and seeking its assistance. The Government has appointed P J Fitzpatrick as the independent chairman of the Public Service Implementation Body that will oversee the Croke Park Agreement, but Mr Bell said today that “as HSE West does not seem to think the agreement applies to them our first port of call in this dispute must be the LRC. Otherwise we may find dozens, if not hundreds, of our members sacked.”
In a letter to SIPTU shop stewards in the HSE West region on Friday, Mr Bell wrote: “In response to the ongoing concerns regarding our members’ future employment in Galway and the HSE West I am requesting that you commence immediate preparation for a ballot of all your members for protective strike action.
“This response to the ongoing speculation which has been generated by the HSE failure to engage with the constituent unions is deemed necessary in order for our members to be included in the process of generating efficiencies within the HSE West region and also protection of employment.
“I can understand that local management in HSE West faces enormous pressure from above to achieve savings of at least €68 million as quickly as possible, but they will not achieve their objectives by simply passing the buck to our members in the form of job cuts — especially as our members deliver some of the most vital front line services, despite being among the lowest paid workers in the sector.”
Also this week the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation called on the Government to lift the moratorium on recruitment for nursing and midwifery posts. HSE nationwide figures show that almost 2,000 nursing and midwifery posts have been lost since the introduction of the recruitment ban, resulting in longer waiting times for public patients for services, overcrowded hospitals with less inpatient beds, overworked staff, and increased risks to both patients and staff.