Over 10,000 hospitals support workers in SIPTU have gone on strike today in a dispute with the government over a jobs evaluation scheme.
In Galway hospital staff are on strike at University Hospital Galway and Merlin Park Hospital in Galway city and Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe.
The dispute centers around a jobs evaluation scheme that was part of the Landsdowne Road public sector pay deal after claims that many support staff have been underpaid for years.
Siptu members say that the government has failed to implement the findings of the scheme which would have entitled many to pay increases of up to €3,000.
The union members involved in this dispute includes medical support staff such as healthcare assistants and laboratory aides, but also those with non medical roles within the health service such as porters and chefs.
The government and Siptu had been in talks at the Workplace Relations Commission earlier this week, but those talks collapsed without any resolution.
Siptu said that hospital workers are owed over €16 million under the jobs evaluations scheme, but the government offered €1.2 million instead,
Trevor Glavey, a porter with at UHG, said that “We don’t want to be here. We know that the services are taking a drastic hit today, but there’s nothing we can do.”
“We just had to go and protest because we’re not getting what we’re owed,” he said.
The government proposed a phased introduction of pay increases starting in November and carrying on through to the end of 2021, but that was also rejected by the union as insufficient.
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has urged Siptu to take the matter to the Labour Court and call of the strike.
Siptu Health Divisional Organiser, Paul Bell said they would prefer a negotiated settlement that does not affect patient services.
But he added that while they have acted in “good faith”, he claimed the government has “abused the conciliation process” and never meaningfully engaged with the union.
The Saolta Hospital Group has said that patients whose procedures have been cancelled today are being contacted directly.
This mostly affects inpatient elective procedures, scopes and day case procedures and some outpatient clinics.
Emergency Departments are open today though people can expect significant delays, and critical care areas such as ICU and HDU will function as normal.
If there is no resolution of this dispute then three further days of strike action are planned for next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.