Second day of nurses and midwives strike leads to criticism of government

Nurses have gone on a second day of strikes
Nurses have gone on a second day of strikes

THE second day of industrial strikes by nurses and midwives caused considerable criticism of the government from political opponents and the public.

Tuesday's strike began at 8am, with busy picket lines held until 4pm across the country.

They were striking over staff retention issues which they say is linked to unsatisfactory pay in the sector.

Nurses are calling for a pay increase of about 12 per cent, but the government has said it is not in the position to borrow money to fund pay increases.

The government released a statement on the eve of the strike, noting "disappointment" in the action.

"The government has always listened to the concerns expressed by nurses in relation to working conditions and job satisfaction as well as the patient experience," the statement said.

"The ministers continue to be willing to engage in talks on the range of workplace-related issues other than pay to try to resolve the dispute."

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said the government's press release was "spin masquerading as substance".

General Secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha said: "Government by press release is unfair and confusing to patients and insulting to nurses and midwives on the picket lines.

"Recycling broken promises is no way to build good-faith negotiations. The government's press release refers to non-pay issues which are already agreed since 2017.

"The INMO previously referred the government to the Workplace Relations Commission to try and find a solution to this dispute, but the government failed to engage or make any proposals.

"We have identified excessive costs and wastage in the HSE, which could be used to address the pay issues at the heart of the recruitment and retention crisis. But the government simply will not listen."

Carol Murphy Haslam, a cancer survivor from Meath, whose 13-year-old daughter had her tonsillectomy in Temple Street Hospital cancelled on Tuesday due to the industrial action, says she is behind the nurses.

"As the operation would have required an overnight stay they wouldn't have had the staff to look after her so they cancelled the procedure," she said.

"When they rang me, I said 'No problem'. I didn't mind. They sent me a new appointment for four weeks' time and had a little Post-it note on it saying 'Thanks for understanding', which I thought was so sweet.

"I have scans today myself to follow up on my cancer and I feel awful passing the picket.

"It goes against everything I've been taught, but I have friends who are midwives and nurses – they told me to go.

"I know if I saw my oncology nurses on the picket, they would tell me they want me to get my scans.

"They do an amazing job, I think all unions should strike with them in solidarity.

"I haven't spoken to anyone who doesn't support them.

"My daughter understands, she's autistic so we had her prepared for the operation, but I explained and said it has to happen, there would be no-one to look after her, but everything will be okay, and she understands."

Fianna Fail's health spokesperson Stephen Donnelly said it was "deeply cynical" to try to talk to nurses while ruling out pay increases.

"How much longer will be let go before this government realises it's obligation?," Mr Donnelly said.

"We believe that an independent review is required to examine nurses's pay and conditions."

Likewise, independent TD Mattie McGrath said: "Simon Harris is fighting so many fires and disasters in his department that I am surprised he has not swapped his ministerial car for a fire engine.

"We have the nurses out in freezing weather practically begging the minister and his government to listen to them, and all he can he come up with is patronising words about how vital they are."

Further strikes will take place on February 19 and 21, in addition to action on February 5 and 7, and February 12-14.