Members of a major Irish nursing union are set to go on strike on January 30 with possible further walkouts due to take place throughout next month in a protest over low pay.
The move – announced yesterday by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) – will be only the second time in the organisation’s 100-year history that members have taken national strike action.
“Ireland’s patients deserve better than this understaffed health service”
The move will see INMO members from across the Republic of Ireland withdraw their labour for 24 hours on January 30, providing only lifesaving and emergency, said a statement.
The decision to take strike action was announced towards the end of last year after a ballot, which saw 95% of union members vote in favour of striking over pay and staffing shortages.
The union said it was legally required to give one week’s notice before going out on strike but had decided to give three weeks warning to allow for safety planning.
It warned that if the dispute was not resolved then further action would take place, with more 24-hour strikes pencilled in for 5 and 7 February and then over three consecutive days from 12 to 14 February.
The dispute centres on staffing shortages, with the union claiming that low wages have left the public health service unable to recruit and retain enough nurses and midwives to provide safe care.
According to the body, the number of staff nurses fell by 1,754 – or 6% – between 2008 and 2018, despite increasing demands on health services.
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INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said going on strike was “the last thing a nurse or midwife wants to do” but claimed members had no choice.
“The crisis in recruitment and retention has made it impossible for us to do our jobs properly. We are not able give patients the care they deserve under these conditions,” she said.
“The Health Service Executive simply cannot recruit enough nurses and midwives on these wages. Until that changes, the health service will continue to go understaffed and patient care will be compromised,” she added.
Ms Ní Sheaghdha maintained that the ball was now in the government’s court and that the strike could be halted if the union felt its concerns were being taken seriously.
“This strike can be averted. All it takes is for the government to acknowledge our concerns, engage with us directly, and work to resolve this issue, in a pro-active manner,” she said.
“The crisis in recruitment and retention has made it impossible for us to do our jobs properly”
Phil Ní Sheaghdha
A meeting due to take place in December had been cancelled, he highlighted. “Like many patients in Ireland’s health service, we are still waiting for an appointment,” she added.
INMO president Martina Harkin-Kelly hoped members of the public would support the stance taken by nurses and midwives.
“We entered these professions because we care for our patients. We’ll be going on strike for the exact same reason. Ireland’s patients deserve better than this understaffed health service,” she said.
“We are calling on the public to support us. Nurses and midwives are always there for you when you need help. Now we need your help,” she added.