INMO reject Croke Park deal and put forward their own proposals
Over 300 nurses and midwives gathered in Trim for their annual delegate conference on 5, 6 and 7 May. The first motion considered by the conference was to unanimously reject the Croke Park deal. So why did they do this and what are they going to do now?
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) executive outlined four reasons for rejecting the proposal:
1. There is no guarantee against further pay cuts – the promise of no cuts to pay is conditional
2. They are not willing to accept a reduction of 6,000 staff (on top of 3,000 staff cuts since embargo)
3. They are not willing to accept 3,500 beds cuts (this is in McCarthy and Croke Park deal says you have to broadly accept the content of McCarthy)
4. They cannot accept continued moratorium on staff.
And it was this issue of the staff moratorium that had the strongest support from the floor of the conference.
The atmosphere at the conference was very heated and passionate. The conference was full of very articulate nurses and midwives and no one opposed the rejection of the Croke Park deal. Most of the inputs from the INMO executive and the floor were focussed on under-staffing and the stranglehold the moratorium is having on services and patient care.
One director of nursing talked about how she has eight unfilled posts and she has to make the choice between stopping a wound management clinic for older people living at home, or stopping an Intellectual Disability clinic for families with new born children with ID or else not providing palliative care for people dying in the community.
The INMO leadership were very keen to portray that although they are recommending a rejection to the Croke Park deal, industrial action is not an option. There was no appetite for strike – nurses have experienced two cuts in wages between levies and pay cuts already. They want to go into discussion with Dept of Health and the HSE on an ‘alternative approach’. Liam Doran spoke about a third way between rejection and acceptance of the Croke Park deal, of accepting and entering dialogue and if that does not work going back to members for a renewed mandate.
‘THe alternative approach’ is the INMO’s view of what the health system should look like in the future so instead of battles over pay and conditions, it seems the nurses are now playing a long game – proposing an integrated care model with the patients and the public at centre, a health service where access is based on need, where care is delivered locally, and a stronger role of nurses in the delivery of a more holistic care.
They also makes some very specific recommendations like immediately lifting the staff moratorium, early retirement scheme for excessive managers in HSE and a graduate employment scheme for newly trained nurses.
Many of their proposals like redeployment and flexible working hours are in both the Croke Park deal and the INMO’s own alternative. However, the alternative has some other specific lines quite contrary to current government policy like making county hospitals localised centres of excellence, giving directors of nursing and other allied Health profs their own budgets, how nurses can work to improve access to diagnostics and day care. Their proposals are also very critical of the slowness to move to generic drugs, the spending of public money on private care inclduing the NTPF and tax reliefs, the failure of HSE management to engage with nurses and unions on change. They were also very critical of media’s denomisation of public sector workers.
The issue of no new jobs for new graduates was discussed. This year and last there are 1600 graduating nurses and there is not one full time post for them. Ten years ago the Dept of Health was trawling the globe recruiting nurses abroad. After the 1999 nurses strike a commitment was made to train more – it costs btw €80,000 and €100,000 of public money to train these nurses. It was government policy to do so and yet we are going to export them or have them on the dole – because of the staffing moratorium. Also nurses are ageing and will need to be replaced so not finding some sort of way of keeping them here seems very shortsighted indeed….