herald

Sunday 25 August 2019

Patients face chaos as 10,000 health staff to strike

Simon Harris believes the strike can be avoided
Simon Harris believes the strike can be avoided

Patients will be hit as surgeries are cancelled and hospital meal services drastically reduced during a 24-hour strike by up to 10,000 staff, including chefs, porters, healthcare and theatre assistants tomorrow.

The stoppage will begin at 38 hospitals and healthcare facilities from 8am after last-ditch talks broke down in a €20m pay row.

Beaumont Hospital, the Mater Hospital, the Rotunda, the Central Mental Hospital, St James's, Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, Cork University Hospital and Our Lady's Hospital in Navan are among the hospitals that will be affected.

Twenty other hospitals may face disruption as Siptu threatened to ramp up the dispute by balloting thousands more staff for strike action.

Senior union officials blamed the Government for squandering a chance to end the row after talks broke down at the Workplace Relations Commission yesterday.

The strike has threatened the cancellation of large numbers of scope procedures and some elective in-patient treatments, as well as out-patient appointments in some hospitals.

Up to 10,000 hospital support staff will mount pickets during the 24-hour strike.

The Siptu staff claim they are due pay hikes worth between €1,500 and €3,000 as part of a job evaluation scheme.

Squandered

However, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform wants the payment to be put on hold until 2021, when the current public sector pay deal runs out.

Health Minister Simon Harris said he believes the strike can be avoided and appealed to all sides to return to talks.

Leaving the failed talks yesterday, Siptu health division organiser Paul Bell claimed the opportunity to resolve the dispute has been squandered.

He revealed that the Government was offering €1.2m to resolve the dispute, while Siptu insisted €16.2m is owed to its members.

Mr Bell said the hospital support staff will provide a limited amount of contingency cover tomorrow.

"The gap between the Government and ourselves is so wide that it's actually difficult to see how the matter could be resolved without a really serious input from Government," he said.

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