As the Deputy is aware, a branch of the Psychiatric Nurses Association, PNA, called the National Ambulance Service Representative Association, NASRA, has been engaged in industrial action. The PNA states that its industrial action is in connection with two substantive issues. The first is the automated deduction of union subscriptions. The second is the refusal by the HSE to engage in negotiations with the PNA or to recognise the PNA as representing ambulance personnel.
To be clear, NASRA, which is affiliated with the PNA, is a group which is not recognised by the HSE and, therefore, does not have negotiating rights. The PNA does not have negotiating rights for ambulance personnel.
It should be noted that the HSE deducts subscriptions at source for those ambulance staff who are members of a number of trade unions, namely, SIPTU, Fórsa and Unite. The deduction of subscriptions is not a legal right but rather a concession granted to recognised unions.
While it is regrettable that the PNA has taken this industrial action, it is not possible to negotiate with a union which is not recognised as having negotiating rights for ambulance grades. Officials from the Department have met representatives of the HSE and the management of National Ambulance Service to explore possible options. However, this is a complex, challenging situation.
Industrial relations policy has had a longstanding objective of avoiding fragmentation in worker representation in public sector employments, and the trade union movement generally, so as to facilitate the orderly conduct of bargaining and other aspects of industrial relations.
The Deputy has also raised the issue of the health sector national staff surveys of 2016 and 2018. As we know, surveys of this kind are a valuable tool used to gather information to assess employee opinion and satisfaction rates.
In relation to the National Ambulance Service, the 2016 survey contained both positive and negative results. In response, management took a range of measures, including staff health and well-being programmes, leadership development programmes for managers, the establishment of a national staff engagement forum and anti-bullying initiatives.
I understand that the results of the 2018 survey were published on the National Ambulance Service website on 11 March 2019. I have asked my officials to examine these results and engage with the HSE on further measures to address any areas for improvement.