24 hour strike action on 24 November
Despite a day of protracted talks on 28 October, health sector unions emerged ready for 24 hour strike action on 24th November. Very little of the detail has been worked out in terms of duration or services affected but it is safe to predict that if it goes ahead it will
- in effect it will be like Christmas day with very minimum services
- Nurses will still staff wards with emergency cover
- Not sure whats happening doctors, INO are at the talks but have no plans to ballot yet, but will also provide emergency cover if they go on strike
- Planned procedures, out patient and day services will be closed will be postponed
- its not clear what happening in community and continuing care eg Intellectual disability, nursing home care
- but it will be nominal levels of care and will have knock in implications for the health services and will cause disruptions to patients.
It is complicated by the fact that different unions are balloting for different things even in the health sector …
- Action will go ahead unless the government withdraws the threat of a second public service pay cut in less than a year
- they were being forced into strike action by the Government’s refusal to consider alternatives to pay cuts
- With the pension levy imposed in March every public servant believes they have already suffered a 7.5% pay cut this year
- There is very high union support in favour of action.
It looks like we are on a collision course. On 28 October, public sector unions were in discussion with government, together and then in sectors. Usually health sector would negotiate with HSE HR or CEO and in Social Partnership the Dept of Taoiseach takes the lead. No so this week, it was the Dept of Health and the Department of Finance – this seems like a political shift. Brian Cowen’s words last weekend that he was willing to look at non pay issues were not apparent to unions in talks this week.
At the heart of it is how the health sector can cut a further €500 million so that the €4 billion ‘savings’ can be achieved. On THursday last, government outlined how €500 million of €1.3 billion needed had to come from health service pay bill. And government made it very clear this is on top of savings already made from jobs moratorium – 3,000 a year for 2 years – €175 million and the €900 million less in next years health budget.
So we are back to Mary Harney’s figure of €1.4 billion in cuts in the health sector. Unions say this is not possible without dismantling the public health and social care system. Government are saying it has to be done.
So is there any way of putting off or stopping this action on November 24th?
Before it goes ahead, unions have to ballot their members. Under legalisation, unions must talk to HSE and agree how and what patients care is covered on the day. Also, it is no agreed that it will just be one day, union people I was talking to today are saying there’ll be a series of action between 24th and budget day.
So whats needed to stop it? IMPACT are saying take the pay cut off the table. Liam Doran of the INO is saying that we need to broaden or tax base, tax those who gained most during the boom, eliminate the tax breaks, start at the top not the bottom. SIPTU are saying we need to have to invest more so that we have quality public services – we still spend less than all of our European neighbours on public services. HSE management and government are saying we need to cut the non core tax bill.
Currently both sides, or even all sides as there are more than two, are very far apart….