Strike action by around 500 ambulance workers tomorrow could cause further backlogs in hospital Emergency Rooms.
Ambulance drivers, paramedics and emergency medical technicians are among those who will take part in a second round of strike action in a dispute over union recognition.
Workers are calling for the HSE to recognise their right to be represented by the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) – which established its ambulance branch NASRA in 2010.
The HSE is insisting that the PNA does not hold negotiating rights for ambulance grades and is refusing to automatically deduct membership fees from workers’ pay.
"Our union our choice"
PNA spokesperson Tony Gregg said the workers will not be backing down.
“If we surrender the cornerstone principle of the trade union movement that our union is our choice; that would have a contagion effect throughout the system where we would surrender that right on everybody else’s behalf,” he said.
“So, we are refusing to allow the government or the HSE create an environment where essentially they choose the union for workers – which will mean nothing other than the employer negotiating terms and conditions with themselves.”
He said the strike action is likely to have a significant impact on Emergency Departments tomorrow.
“There are certainly going to knock-on delays in A&E because frontline ambulances and the ICB vehicles that normally take patients from A&Es and bring them to other non-emergency facilities won’t be happening,” he said.
“So there will be a delay.”
The union said the HSE has ignored calls for the issue to be referred to Workplace Relations Commission and has pledged further strikes if tomorrow’s action does not achieve the desired results.
“The minister has decided he has washed his hands of it,” said Mr Gregg. “He is not interested.”
“I think the HSE now have their hands of it; they are not interested.
“They have left us with no alternative except to engage in action.”
The strike will run for 24 hours from 2pm tomorrow afternoon.