Members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation are preparing to take strike action on Wednesday 30 January, with last ditch talks having seemingly failed to provide an agreement.
The 24-hour national strike will see up to 40,000 nurse and midwife INMO members withdraw their labour, providing only emergency and lifesaving care.
“We are still waiting for the government to make realistic proposals to avert this strike”
Phil Ní Sheaghdha
Pickets will be taking place across the country, generally from 8am to 4pm, said the union today.
It will be only the second time in the union’s 100-year history that its members have taken national strike action. Nurses and midwives last engaged in strike action two decades ago in 1999.
INMO members voted at the end of last year in favour of taking national strike action over low pay, which leaders say is driving staff shortages. The union said 95% of its members had voted in a ballot to go on strike in a dispute over staff shortages and pay.
The strike represents a ramping up of action after nurses and midwives across Ireland staged protests in September against staff shortages and patient overcrowding in their hospitals.
The issues driving Irish nurses’ anger centre on staff shortages caused by low pay, leaving the public health service unable to recruit and retain enough nurses and midwives to safely care for patients.
The INMO noted that nurses and midwives were the lowest-paid graduate professionals in the Irish health service, earning thousands less than similarly qualified staff, despite working a longer week.
For example, it said a staff nurse would earn €31,110 (£27,925) after one year, €36,383 (£32,658) after five years, €43,070 (£38,661) after 10 and €45,701 (£41,023) after 15.
This compared with a range of €37,784 (£33,916) to €52,059 (£46,730) over the same period for therapists, according to the union.
Recent government pay proposals did not affect most nurses and midwives and were rejected as insufficient by 94% of INMO members in October.
Three days of talks between the INMO and the government side collapsed without resolution on 25 January, though a further round of informal discussions were due to be held on 28 January.
In a statement on 25 January, INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said: “The largest strike in the health service’s history looms and our political leaders are nowhere to be seen.
“With a heavy heart, strike preparations continue,” she said. “As ever, we are available to talk any time, but we are still waiting for the government to make realistic proposals to avert this strike.”
Meanwhile on 28 January, an INMO spokesperson said: “The ball is firmly in the government’s court. They need to make serious proposals if they are to avert industrial action.”