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News / April 29, 2008

Healthworkers vote for industrial action

by Guy Hiscott

Almost 30,000 healthcare workers, who are members of the Impact trade union, have voted to take industrial action over the Health Service Executive’s (HSE) recruitment freeze and its impact on services.

The employees voted by 85% to 15% to sanction industrial action, which will involve a refusal to co-operate with HSE advisors or the Executive’s ‘transformation programme’ from 21 May. The employees will also block non-emergency overtime and out-of-hours work and refuse to cover work and posts affected by the recruitment freeze. The union also plans other forms of action, including work stoppages.

Impact says its action will minimise the effect on patients and services, as the action focuses on the HSE’s top management.

In September 2007, the HSE announced a recruitment embargo in response to overspending in hospitals and refunds for drugs and medicines in the amount of €245 million. Although the spending overrun was not related to staffing costs, the embargo postponed any new appointments of staff, temps, agency workers, locums, relief staff and overtime, as well as promotions and career break returns.

As we reported in the Irish Dentist journal back in October 2007, the HSE’s temporary embargo on employment resulted in the cancellation of dental appointments in areas such as Inchicore and Ballyfermot.

The embargo, introduced without any consultation with trade unions or staff representatives, officially ended last Christmas. However, it was replaced in January by a new strict employment control process under which only critical frontline vacancies that arose before 2008 could be filled – and only if other posts that became vacant were suppressed.

Impact national secretary Kevin Callinan said the union was seeking an end to the current recruitment restrictions and respect for existing agreements and third party recommendations about staff working conditions.