Thursday, 7 February 2019
Nurses and Midwives Industrial Action: Statements
The Minister said that he is eager to come to a fair and satisfactory solution for all parties that preserves the integrity of all elements of the Public Service Stability Agreement, PSSA. The general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ICTU, has said that there is potential within the existing agreement that protects its integrity but also allows for a resolution to this issue. The effort made by the Government the other evening leaves a lot to be desired, but it can correct that mistake by offering to enter into talks with no preconditions and it can allow independent arbitration on the issues referred to in clauses three and four. At the time the agreement was put in place, it was believed by nurses that those issues would be resolved, notwithstanding the Public Service Pay Commission's recommendations. The Minister was quick to say that the Government implemented in full the aforementioned recommendations, but he was very slow to admit that the chairperson of the commission alluded, in the report's foreword, to the fact that the commission did not have the correct analytics and statistics available to it which would allow it to make a recommendation it could stand over in terms of being the most informed one possible. That must be acknowledged but the Minister was not too quick about saying that.
The Minister spoke earlier in the week about the significant overruns on the children's hospital project, but we did not get a definition of "significant" from him. What some nurses believe is significant is the rent they are paying or the cost of a washing machine that has to be replaced. What is significant to some nurses and others in this country is the price of fuel in the event of a prolonged winter. What is significant to them is €300 or €400. I do not know what significant means to Fine Gael or to this Government, but it is time to get into a room and speak about it to arrive at a resolution. Patients and the public are suffering, with 25,000 patients affected per day of strike. Those whom I have met on the picket lines have said that when they signed up to the PSSA, there were clauses within it which they believed would address their concerns. The Government took credit for them at the time but it cannot run away from them now.