Thousands Of Nurses Fight For Promised Shorter Week

A fresh battle is under way on behalf of thousands of nurses who have lost out on a cut in hours, while their colleagues get a shorter working week.

Up to 25,000 nurses secured a cut of an hour-and-a-half to 37.5 hours in their working week, which became effective at the weekend.

But agreement could not be reached with individual managers in a significant number of hospitals and other health services, mostly because they are struggling with lack of staff.

Unions will have to fight to make the cut of an hour and a half retrospective for the 12,000 nurses who are still on a 39-hour week. If the issue is not resolved it could spark another work-to-rule by nurses in some services refusing to do overtime.

The issue is complicated because a statement from the National Implementation Body (NIB) — which oversees the national agreement — described the June 1 start-up of the shorter week as a “target date” rather than a definite deadline.

And the health managers have to make any cut “cost neutral” — leaving them with no room to hire extra staff.

This may be impossible in some cases. Seamus Murphy of the Psychiatric Nurses Association said yesterday that the NIB will meet with unions and employers again tomorrow to try to get agreement for the rest of the 12,000 nurses.

He said it emerged that agreements in some services could not be signed off by local managers at the last minute.

“There is still a lot of confusion in the system and it appears to be on the management side”, he added.

The 37.5-hour week from June 1 was promised as part of settlement of the nurses’ dispute last year — but it could not be imposed nationally. Mr Murphy said they would insist that the hour and a half be made retrospective for all the outstanding nurses from June 1.