Almost 40,000 nurses and midwives at hospitals around the Twenty-Six Counties took to the picket line yesterday (January 30) to demand better pay and working conditions. This is only the second ever state-wide strike by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation in over one hundred years. The INMO has planned five more 24-hour stoppages next month.
Support for the strike has been phenomenal, with members of the public and other public servants offering their support wherever they could. At the Mater Hospital on Dublin’s northside, the local Fire Brigade station supported the picket with hot drink and food. On the southside, outside St. James’ Hospital, the sound of beeping horns from cars, buses and trams, in support of the nurses, was deafening
The situation for the nurses and midwives, as well as their patients is a treacherous one. Irish hospitals are becoming increasingly unsafe because of an under-staffing crisis, yet the Fine Gael-led Government claim that there is no problem with recruitment and retention.
The Government continues to insist that the nurses' pay claim is unaffordable. Minister for Health Simon Harris has said that increasing pay for the nurses and midwives would be irresponsible given the economic risks forthcoming from Brexit.
Speaking at the INMO picket outside St. James’ Hospital today, Éirígí local election candidate, Damien Farrell said,
“Today is a significant day for the trade union movement. It is only the second time in one hundred years that nurses have been forced to come out on strike. Leo Varadkar and Simon Harris have picked a fight that they cannot win.
Thousands of nurses and midwives have emigrated over the past number of years because of low-pay, dire working conditions and chronic under-staffing in our hospitals. If the Dublin government want nurses to stay in this country, they will have to improve their pay and working conditions.”
“It is absolutely despicable that the state refuses to take action on this issue, instead they would prefer to make life increasingly difficult for the nurses and midwives, as well as their patients. Even more despicably, Simon Harris this morning threatened to sanction nurses and fine them for participating in this strike.
Despite what Fine Gael may say about this action potentially endangering the lives of patients, it is exactly because of their patients that these nurses are on strike. An underfunded, neglected and short-staffed hospital is a dangerous one, both for staff and patients.”
Calling for the creation of a new public health service Damien said,
“The healthcare system we have now is simply unfit for purpose. Only a new single-tier, properly-funded public healthcare system can provide all our people with the high-quality healthcare they are entitled to.
This system would also provide our nurses, midwives and all our healthcare workers, with a sustainable work environment and appropriate financial reward for their expertise and the work that they do.”