Fórsa responds as nursing strike looms
by Bernard Harbor

Fórsa’s Health and Welfare Division is advising health staff not to undertake work normally done by nurses if the nursing strike goes ahead from 30th January as expected. This follows a standard request from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), which reflected the usual practice when industrial action takes place in a multi-union sector.

Fórsa has also reiterated its strong view that all civil and public servants, and their unions, must be treated equally under the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA), which was backed by a large majority of unions – including the INMO – in 2017.

Specifically, Fórsa has warned of pressure for further pay claims in the health sector and elsewhere if some groups of workers are granted pay benefits beyond those set out in the PSSA.

In a note circulated to Fórsa staff last week, the union said the benefits due to members under the PSSA – including pay measures, improvements for so-called ‘new entrants,’ and potential measures to address recruitment and retention issues – are likely to be jeopardized if a union fails to abide by its terms.

“Fórsa is on record to say that it, therefore, expects all the parties to the agreement – including employers and other unions – to abide by the terms of the deal in the same way,” it said.

The note also said that post-PSSA pay arrangements should, at the appropriate time, “be negotiated collectively to ensure that any resources available for improvements in pay and working conditions are allocated fairly among all grades and professions.”

On foot of observations made by the Public Service Pay Commission in its 2018 report on nurses and consultants, Fórsa says there is merit in developing arrangements to “allow for the adequacy of current pay arrangements more generally to be fully examined.”

The commission said this should be done “at an appropriate time, and without compromising the stability of the public service pay bill.”

Under the PSSA, the Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) has been charged with examining recruitment and retention issues in a number of civil and public service grades and professions, which were named in the commission’s 2017 report on public service pay issues.

Fórsa fought for, and welcomed, this provision in the agreement. But it says all professions and grades must be treated equally by the Government in its response to pay commission findings.

Last November, the union called on the PSPC to press on with examinations of recruitment and retention difficulties in the health professions, social care and elsewhere – including the civil service – now that it has concluded its work on nurses and hospital doctors.

The union has pointed out that the PSPC’s 2017 report found that staff retention problems were more acute in the health and social care professions than in nursing, and it has given the PSPC evidence of growing recruitment problems in parts of the civil service.

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