Letter Sparks Bitter Row Between Health Sector Union

A row has erupted between the country’s largest health sector unions over the new pay campaign launched by the Irish Nurses Organisation (INO). Impact, which represents 26,000 health workers, has criticised the INO in a letter to health employers over the claim lodged by nurses in the wake of the social partnership agreement. The correspondence – seen by The Sunday Business Post – attacks the style of campaign being waged by the nurses union, led by Liam Doran, which is seeking to establish a differential between nurses and social care workers represented by Impact.

‘‘Of all of the eight claims being pursued by the INO, the one that is the most insidious is that seeking to establish a differential for nurses over the grade of social care worker,” Impact’s national organiser Kevin Callanan said in a letter to the HSE Employers Agency.

‘‘The current approach being taken by the INO, worsened by the suggestion that the connection with social care is a basis for increasing the pay of all nurses, is in our view a n attempt to negatively affect the pay ambitions of all social care professionals and the related category of care assistants,” he said.

Callanan added that ‘‘regardless of the attitude of the INO, this will not be tolerated by our union or the workers concerned.” Impact’s attack on the INO was cited in the Labour Court by the HSE Employers Agency to bolster its case against the nurses claim last week. INO general secretary Liam Doran said Impact’s letter was a serious and unprecedented development. He also said it would be considered by the INO’s executive when it meets next month.

‘‘I’m around this business a good while and I have never before encountered such behaviour by one union about the legitimate actions of another in protecting its own members, by communicating objections to an employer,” said Doran.

‘‘We are going through the Labour Court, which is an independent body, and abiding by procedure. What useful purpose could possibly be served by this letter to employers?” Callanan defended the union’s attack on the INO’s pay claim this weekend, on the grounds that other health care workers could lodge further claims if the INO’s campaign was conceded.

He told this paper: ‘‘Our executive noted the hype that was going on around the INO’s pay claim and we wanted to make clear to the HSE employers that if there was going to be a question of concessions to one group, then clearly other groups would stand up and say, ‘we want to make claims too’.”

Callanan said the terms of the national pay agreement’s provisions should be binding on all parties.

In response, Doran said: ‘‘There is an inference in the letter that the INO action is grounded in denigrating the work of social care workers. At no stage have we said anything other than praise the work of social care workers.

‘‘But a degree is higher than a diploma – end of story. The nurse has a degree and the health employers must recognise that the nurse is subject to a higher standard of professionalism and scrutiny,” he said.

‘‘The Labour Court has accepted that traditionally nurses were always paid more than social care workers,” said Doran.