HSE health support staff at Portlaoise hospital are on strike today over what the trade union SIPTU says is the failure by Government to implement the findings of a job evaluation scheme.
Breakfast was given to patients in Portlaoise hospital at 7 am this morning and dinner today will consist of just fish and beans as only emergency staff are on duty while SIPTU members strike.
Pat Lalor is the SIPTU Shop Steward for Portlaoise hospital, he told the Leinster Express that what they want is for the government to ‘recognise and play their part in a process that was agreed’.
He said staff are ‘absolutely, 100%’ prepared to strike for three days next week if no solution is reached which he said would cause ‘major disruption’.
“The reason we are here is because there was a process of evaluation in place which was done by SIPTU and the HSE in conjunction and the government now have reneged and they haven’t recognised that process even though they entered into it as part of the pay agreements in 2016.
“We are hoping that the findings of the evaluation, the money that is owed will be paid to the relevant members that’s what we are trying to achieve. The evaluation was done, that process was done and it was an agreed process at the time with the government, the HSE and the union and now the government have reneged on paying their part when they have the findings,” he said.
Mr Lalor said that the decision to strike is not taken lightly and the union had done everything it could to avoid this.
“Nobody wants to be out here, we are very aware of the patients in the bed and this wasn’t taken lightly, nobody wants to be here.
“As a union, we have done as much as we can to make sure that adverse situations are covered within the hospital but what we want is for the government to recognise and play their part in a process that was agreed.
“We are picketing from 8 am to 6 pm this evening we have a shift cycle. We have members providing emergency cover within the hospital. We are conscious we have a maternity unit, we have paediatrics unit, an A&E unit and we are trying and conscious of the fact that patients and emergencies will come in we don’t want any adverse problems with patients or anything to happen in that respect. Striking somewhere like a hospital is not easy and it's certainly not taken lightly,” he said.
Mr Lalor said the work inside the hospital will build up without HSE support staff working today and a range of clinics and procedures have been cancelled which will effect waiting lists.
“I think we do want a situation where both sides sit down and engage in a meaningful discussion and the government recognise the process they agreed. This is a dispute with the government. We are hopeful we are resolute in our determination. Two days have been deferred, we have one day strike today and there are three days planned for next week so if something doesn’t happen inbetween there will be major disruption next week, major disruption,” he said.
Roisin Kelly is the SIPTU representative for healthcare assistants at Portlaoise hospital.
“There is a great crowd out for the day we have done out a roster for four hours split it that people can come as they can, a couple of people here were actually on nights last night, one gentleman here was on nights and everyone is doing their fair bit,” she said.
Catering staff said they gave out breakfast at 7 am this morning and a small dinner of fish and beans will be served to patients later due to the staff shortage inside.
“We would sooner be in working rather than being out here, we really would because it’s not fair on the patients, patients first. If it was our own parents or our own kids in there we wouldn’t like this to be happening. We really don’t want to be out here.
“We are standing here for ourselves it should work for us eventually but we are at the bottom of the list. It will work eventually for us,” a group of catering staff agreed.
Staff on the picket line said that SIPTU sent a three-page document of what work was expected of them during the strike but they fought back to say they were doing less work or it would not have an impact.
In a statement, the HSE said the strike has been 'challenging' for hospitals to deal with today effecting 'essential daily care' and 'a significant number of appointment and procedure cancellations'.