Updated: 29/12/16 : 06:43:40
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Hospitals face 'chaos' in new strike action ballot

It would appear that Sligo University Hospital will be among those balloted in the new year on strike action which could bring chaos to Ireland's hospitals.

While nurses' and doctors' demands remain under ongoing discussion, other hospital workers such as healthcare assistants, home help, porters, caterers and operating theatre cleaners are feeling "ignored and disrespected", Siptu health organiser Paul Bell said.

Siptu wants such workers to get access to job evaluations that could give staff pay rises for increased workload and responsibilities.

Mr Bell said while the union doesn't want the dispute to impact on patients, 15 months of unsuccessful talks with the HSE led to the decision to ballot for strike action.

This is to take place on January 23.

Initially the major hospitals in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway will be the target of the Siptu strike action ballot. Regional hospitals, including Sligo University Hospital, will follow soon after.

Health Minister Simon Harris said: "I am determined to work on issues that matter for patients and staff and I don't believe the threat of industrial action helps anyone."


Labour health spokesman Alan Kelly backed the workers, arguing they were "undervalued".

He predicted there would be "chaos" in hospitals if the strike goes ahead along with feared industrial action by doctors and nurses. Mr Kelly said "everything has changed" since the Garda pay deal and that the Government's process for dealing with public sector pay demands "needs to be sped up dramatically".

Mr Bell said support staff at major hospitals in the main cities, as well as some in the Midlands like Tullamore, Mullingar and Portlaoise are likely to be balloted first. He said these strikes will show how "essential" these workers are to the health service.

He said work stoppages of between one and three days could take place in early February.

Mr Bell said the support staff were only seeking measures promised under existing agreements and that Siptu was open to negotiation with the HSE to avert a strike.

The HSE expressed "disappointment" at Siptu's decision to ballot for industrial action.

However, a spokesman said it "is open to the reintroduction of a job-evaluation scheme for support staff subject to management discussions regarding costings for such a scheme".

A Health Department spokeswoman said it was also considering the reintroduction of such a scheme in the context of the implementation of the Lansdowne Road Agreement.