Psychiatric nurses threaten strike action over pensions row

Management at St Patrick's University Hospital say the financial position of the scheme is likely to deteriorate

Psychiatric nurses threaten strike action over pensions row

Image: Sean Defoe

Updated 18:25

Nurses at St Patrick's University Hospital in Dublin say they will strike if issues over their pensions are not sorted.

Members of staff of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services staged a second protest outside the hospital Wednesday, as they say management decided to close their Defined Benefit (DB) Pension Scheme with effect from June 2nd this year.

In a statement, the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) said the decision to close the DB scheme reneges on an agreement reached with the hospital, the Pensions Board and trustees to protect core elements of the DB Scheme. 

This afternoon’s protest was the second of two staged in recent weeks with the support of a range of unions including SIPTU, IMPACT and the PNA. 

Speaking today, PNA spokesman Eoin Ward said there may be strike action at the hospital if the decision is not reversed.

“It has been a very complex situation,” he said. “There had been agreements made in the Labour Court only last year between unions and management and they have been completely reneged on.”

“Management tell us that this is in our best interest, however they acted completely unilaterally, without consulting us before making these decisions.”

An Inter Union Group unanimously agreed to ballot respective members for industrial action, up to and including strike action. 

That ballot commenced today and the result will be known in a week.

Patricia Maher - a nurse at the hospital for 33 years - said the move is a huge blow to staff.

"Many of us, including myself, made financial decisions throughout our life based on the fact that when we retired we would have our defined benefits scheme," she said.

"It seems now that the hospital has broken that rule and it has left people absolutely devastated."

The Defined Benefit scheme currently has 274 active members and 224 deferred members.

Management statement

Management at the hospital said following years of funding difficulties, the financial position of the scheme is "likely to deteriorate" and will be less than originally forecast.  

"The organisation will be honouring the full terms of the Funding Agreement which was put in place in 2008 when the 2005 Scheme fell into deficit. This amounts to paying approximately €7m into the pension scheme," the statement reads.

"The decision to close the 2005 Scheme was communicated to both staff members directly affected and unions on March 22nd 2017, at which time the unions were offered the opportunity to meet to discuss the matter."

It concluded by saying management at St Patrick's Hospital remain committed "to prioritising the safety and best interests of our service users and to the provision of the highest quality mental health care. There will be no disruption to any of the services."