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10,000 hospital workers strike over pay

Hospital workers will go on strike Photo: Niall Carson/PA

A total of 10,000 hospital workers are to go on strike from 8am on Wednesday.

Industrial action planned by Siptu workers, including catering staff, porters, cleaners and technicians, will affect patient and client services across 38 hospitals and healthcare facilities.

The dispute has emerged between workers and the HSE over what Siptu claims is a failure to implement increases in pay for workers after a job evaluation scheme deemed the staff were underpaid.

The initial response from the Government was that the increase would be paid in 2021 when all the stages of the evaluation are complete.

The Taoiseach says that in order to come to a deal the Government had agreed to phase-in these pay increases from November 2019, “out of good will”, in an effort to resolve the dispute, which was not accepted by the union.

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Siptu Health Divisional Organiser Paul Bell said the trade union would prefer a negotiated settlement that does not impact on patient services.

“Unfortunately, we have run out of time and too many issues remain unresolved,” he said.

“Siptu members have acted in good faith at all times during this dispute including by deferring two days of strike action.

“We believe that the Government has abused the conciliation process and never meaningfully engaged with Siptu representatives. Some 16.2 million euro is owed to our members yet the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has only offered 1.2 million euro to resolve this dispute.

“Furthermore, the department has attempted to frustrate this process by seeking to unilaterally change a crucial element of the job evaluation scheme which centres on the assimilation of pay to new grades as awarded under this independent process.

“A 24-hour strike will go ahead, as our members continue to pursue their legitimate claim for recognition, respect and pay justice.”

The first strike, which was due to take place last week, was called off to allow for further talks, however discussions at the Workplace Relations Commission failed, and the union has since refused the Government’s offer of taking the matter to the Labour Court.

The HSE said it is continuing to engage on contingency planning with Siptu at local hospital and healthcare facility level.

“This is to ensure minimum disruption to patient services, in so far as possible, and to ensure patient dignity and that essential daily care remains in place,” a spokeswoman said.