Thursday, 7 February 2019
Nurses and Midwives Industrial Action: Statements
Two placards held by young nurses on the picket line in Tallaght on Tuesday morning summed up a very important aspect of this dispute. One read, "I am not striking for the good of my health; I am striking for the good of yours." Another was a message to the Ministers: "Pay your nurses as if your life depends on it." These messages highlight that it is patient safety that has suffered first and foremost as a result of the chronic underfunding of the health service under successive Governments. A key part of resolving the dispute is paying staff properly and fairly in order to recruit and retain nurses.
I thought the Minister's move on Monday night, in offering negotiations to the media, not the INMO, was breathtaking in its cynicism, not only because of whom the message was directed at but also because of it what was.
Crucially, the message was not about discussing the central issue of pay but instead was transparently about trying to shame the nurses for seeking pay rises and pay parity. It is the Government which should be utterly ashamed of its behaviour in this dispute and nurses should be unashamed in seeking pay parity. Broadly, working-class people - ordinary people - support the demand for pay parity from nurses because other workers are also experiencing the massive cost of living rises, in particular the cost of accommodation, and also want to have a raise. They rightly see that a victory for nurses is a victory for all workers. The power of that support and solidarity was brought home to me on the picket line on James's Street when firefighters came along with soup to support the nurses and were met with hugs and applause from them. That solidarity and support makes them very strong and means they can achieve a victory in this strike.
The final point is in response to the question on where the money will come from. How about the €250 million spent in nine months last year on agency nurses driving a process of privatisation? How about the €270 million paid to Anglo junior bondholders, supposedly burnt, before Christmas? How about the €80 billion held by the richest 300 people? There is plenty of money available. The question is whether it is used to enrich the super-rich even further, to entrench inequality, to build a two-tier privatised health service, or to pay a decent wage and build a national health service that we need.