Tuesday, 5 February 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
On my own behalf and on behalf of the Government, we profoundly regret the disruption that has been caused to patients, users of our disability services and people with mental health problems who have been adversely affected by the strike action today and last week. We will do all that we can once this dispute is resolved to catch up on the lost work that was done, as we did last year when a number of days' work was lost as a consequence of the storms. I want to recognise that cover is still being provided in maternity hospitals, for palliative care, for most cancer care and in our emergency departments. There has been considerable engagement in efforts to resolve this dispute before now. For example, the whole issue of recruitment and retention was examined by an independent body, the Public Sector Pay Commission, which made recommendations for a €20 million package of allowances and additional increments and career progression for nurses, at a cost of €20 million a year. That was rejected by the nursing unions, or at least by two of the three nursing unions. There was an engagement at the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC. There was also an engagement at the Labour Court. We are open to further engagement and will be happy to have it, either at the WRC or the Labour Court, should it decide to intervene.
I appreciate that the nurses' unions felt that the offer to engage in further talks at the WRC was discourteous as they heard it through a press release rather than through a letter or direct contact. We will make sure that does not recur. At the same time, though, we should not forget that tens of thousands of people found out through the media that their respite care was being cancelled this week and that their day care was being cancelled, too.