Angry Nurses Vote For Strike If Last-Chance Pay Rise Bid Fails

PATIENTS could be faced with more industrial unrest in the health service as nurses yesterday warned they may go on all-out strike over pay demands.

The angry nurses voted in favour of a motion for a possible full strike if the “last-chance” bid to secure pay rises of 10.6pc through the Labour Court fails.

Over 300 nursing delegates at the annual meeting of the Irish Nurses Organisation (INO) made it clear they would not tolerate another rejection of their long-running demands in the wake of January’s benchmarking report which delivered no rise for the majority of the profession.

Nursing unions have since re-submitted the claim to the Labour Court, warning that it is now at the “last-chance saloon” and a preliminary hearing is due next Thursday.

Dave Hughes of the INO said this will be followed some weeks later by a full hearing.

After heated debate at the conference in Cavan yesterday, the nurses agreed to ballot on the Labour Court outcome.

If that is rejected, they will proceed for a second ballot for possible full-strike action — which may even include withdrawal of emergency cover.

Many frustrated delegates stressed the action needed to be radical and sharp to ensure they put maximum pressure on the Health Service Executive.

There was clear disappointment among a significant number of delegates that last year’s seven-week work-to-rule was not tough enough and failed to achieve their aims.

The threat comes on top of the current overtime ban by psychiatric nurses over an inadequate compensation scheme and industrial action planned by 30,000 IMPACT health workers in two weeks.

The unrest awaits the HSE’s new Director of Human Resources, Sean McGrath, who is to shortly take up his €250,000-per-year posting.

The only bright spot on the horizon yesterday was the decision by the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) to put the new contract for hospital specialists to a ballot.

After five exhaustive years the IHCA has recommended that its consultant members vote in favour of the contract, worth up to €240,000 a year. The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) is also expected to ballot members shortly.

Meanwhile, Rebecca O’Malley, whose cancer diagnosis was delayed as a result of medical blunders, urged INO nurses not to be afraid to report mistakes.

She said the reporting of blunders should be made mandatory.