Belfast Telegraph

Strike by hospital support staff can be averted, says Varadkar

Ten thousand Health Service Executive support staff are planning 24-hour industrial action on Thursday.

Contingency planning at the 38 hospitals and healthcare facilities due to be affected has begun (Lynne Cameron/PA)
Contingency planning at the 38 hospitals and healthcare facilities due to be affected has begun (Lynne Cameron/PA)

Strike action by support staff at hospitals across the country this week can be averted, the Taoiseach has maintained.

Leo Varadkar said he believed a resolution could be found if the dispute was referred to the Labour Court.

Ten thousand Health Service Executive support staff are planning 24-hour industrial action on Thursday.

The dispute over pay is due to affect patients in 38 hospitals and healthcare facilities across the country.

Siptu has called on Health Minister Simon Harris to intervene. But Mr Harris has appealed for all sides to use the industrial relations mechanisms of the state to try to avert the action.

Talks at the Workplace Relations Commission ended without agreement on Monday night.

Mr Varadkar told the Dail on Tuesday that he understood the value of the work that support staff did at hospitals and that the Government and the HSE were willing for the matter to go to the Labour Court.

“We believe this strike can be averted and the best way in my view to avert that strike is to use the industrial relations machinery that we have,” he said.

He added that it was time for the matter to be referred to the Labour Court.

The Taoiseach was responding to questions from Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, who said said ongoing issues in the health system needed “hands-on attention” by the Government.

“These workers feel that they’re being dismissed by government that they don’t matter to government,” Mr Martin claimed.

He said it should go to the Labour Court without conditions.

“Then perhaps there may be an opportunity to prevent chaos on Thursday and undermining of patient care and avoid the cancellation of elective admissions to hospitals,” Mr Martin said.

In response, Mr Varadkar said: “This dispute should be resolved, this dispute can be resolved, the strike can be avoided on Thursday.

“The disruption to patients doesn’t have to happen and I am suggesting this can be resolved by referral to the Labour Court.”

He asked Mr Martin to consider Fianna Fail’s own statements, where on one hand they are criticising the Government for over-committing but then calling for more spending.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said that the Government needed to honour its previous commitments on pay.

“Their strike is not about any new pay claim. It’s about requiring the Government to honour its side of an agreement that both sides entered into freely,” Mr Howlin said.

He said it would be “an act of betrayal for the State to go back on its commitment” to healthcare support staff now.

Appealing for the Taoiseach to intervene, the Wexford TD said that the workers involved were essential to the proper functioning of hospitals and that they were some of the lowest paid.

In a statement the HSE said efforts were continuing to avoid the action, which is said would significantly affect services.

Contingency planning at the 38 hospitals and healthcare facilities due to be affected has begun.

“While every effort will be made to minimise impact on patients, industrial action involving these essential staff will have a significant impact on services,” the HSE said.

It said patients will be contacted by their local hospital or healthcare facility in the event that a scheduled procedure or service will be affected by the dispute.

PA

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