Press Release

Department of Health & Children Refutes INO/PNA Claims

Department of Health & Children Refutes INO/PNA Claims

The Department of Health & Children today (Friday, 4th May 2007) refuted the charge by the Deputy General Secretary of the Irish Nurses Organisation that the Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, has been seriously misled by her officials and the HSE.

The introduction of a 35 hour week for nurses and midwives would require an additional 4,000 nursing positions if off-setting measures of the type referred to by the Labour Court are not agreed.  The changes in rosters, work practices, etc, tabled by both sides during the recent talks under the auspices of the NIB are designed to avoid this.

The suggestion by the INO that their claims can be conceded without having regard to the position of other HSE employees, and the wider public service, is not tenable.  This is obviously not true in the case of their pay claims. Nor is it true in the case of their claim for a 35 hour week.  SIPTU and the Craft Group of unions have already sought a 35 hour week for 34,000 other health sector staff.

Management has already welcomed the changes in nursing roles proposed by the INO/PNA.  They are in line with the HSE’s transformation programme.

Management want to introduce more cost-effective roster arrangements, but recognise also the difficulties this might create for individual nurses if it interferes with their existing work patterns.  For example, many nurses prefer to work long shifts and get more days off.  In addition, over 10,000 nurses already work less than 39 hours a week under a variety of family friendly policies and for them a 35 hour week would simply increase their pay unless they too agree to reduce their current working hours.

In addition, changes in the roles, working pattern, hours of employment and developmental opportunities for any one category of health personnel, especially in acute hospital settings, have direct implications for other professional groups who share the same service and patient responsibilities.  The best way to achieve these changes – which would greatly improve services to patients – is through discussions involving all health service employees in the special Health Sector Forum that has been set by the Government and ICTU for that specific purpose.

The proposals tabled at the NIB talks would give nurses an initial reduction of one hour and a time-limited process, to start within a month, which would establish whether a further reduction in working hours is achievable. The industrial action is affecting patients in our public health services and putting increased pressure on other HSE employees who work side by side with nurses.  It also means that INO/PNA nurses now stand to lose part of the pay increases under Towards 2016 and the HSE have also said that it may have to make deductions from nurses pay in respect of the work to rule.  The real pity is that this dispute is unnecessary from the perspectives of both patients and nurses.

Notes

Towards 2016 provides for a 3% increase from 1 December 2006 and a further 2% increase from 1 June 2007. There are established precedents within the health sector, and other parts of the public service, for withholding part of national agreement increases from groups who do not comply with the terms of the agreement.