The newly elected Executive Council, of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), in a break with tradition, today decided to convene an extraordinary Council in August 2018, to consider progress on their staffing and pay claims at that point.
Under the Public Services Pay and Stability Agreement (PSPSA), the recruitment and retention difficulties of the health service were prioritised for examination by the PSPC. The INMO, in a series of clarification letters, were given commitments that the PSPC would issue its findings in June and that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform would, within four weeks, conclude negotiations on the outcome of those deliberations.
The INMO Executive Council are now concerned that the Commission will not finalise its first module until July, a month later than originally indicated, and that the political system seems to have shifted emphasis from the problems of the health service to other pay agendas in the public service.
The frustration of the newly elected Executive Council was compounded by the fact that the health services failed to meet its targeted staffing number under the Funded Workforce Plan, agreed with the Organisation, for the year 2017 and that, in spite of direct commitments from the Minister for Health, the Department and the HSE, have failed to produce a Funded Workforce Plan for the year 2018 and only produced a first draft on 31st May 2018.
Additionally, in the draft shown to the INMO, the Department and the HSE have changed the method of counting student nurses, thereby giving the effect of double counting the students and creating the impression that recruitment was way ahead of what it actually is.
Speaking after the Council meeting, INMO General Secretary Ms. Phil Ni Sheaghdha, said:
“The Public Service Pay and Stability Agreement is quite specific in giving priority to the urgent need to tackle the recruitment and retention issues facing the health services and nurses and midwives are a priority in that regard. Hospitals are struggling to provide full services, with beds closed due to staff shortages, agency costs are spiraling out of control, and nurses are leaving because of the impact of over-work and poor work environments, which is causing burnout on a large scale across experienced nurses and midwives”.
Ms. Ni Sheaghdha continued:
“Our Council are re-emphasizing the strong message delivered by delegates to our recent conference through an emergency motion. It is patently obvious that you cannot treat these professions as second class citizens by leaving them as the lowest paid professional grade in the health service and working the longest hours among their peer group. This is the itch successive governments have failed to scratch and our members are telling their Executive Council they have had enough and that this is the last chance for procedure to work. If the agreed procedures fail nursing and midwifery on this occasion, then our health service is certainly facing a winter of discontent”.
It is expected that, when the Executive Council meet in August, they will consider balloting members for industrial action unless the Public Services Pay Commission confirm the link between pay and the difficulties of recruitment and retention, and government engage in addressing the pay deficiencies.