There is an overarching issue concerning the management of human resources and industrial relations within the health services, which are, by any objective assessment, dysfunctional. Morale is very low across all grades and levels of people working in the health services. Pressure undoubtedly is rising, as health needs and pressure on staff are becoming more acute. The pressure is never-ending. Retention of key staff has become very problematic. Against this background, further significant disruption will occur tomorrow morning if the proposed strike involving attendants, porters, catering staff, and so on goes ahead. It is clear that there will be serious disruption to day cases, outpatient treatment and elective inpatient procedures. As Dr. Fergal Hickey said this morning, there will be delays and patients who are either in hospital or are trying to get into hospital tomorrow will endure great inconvenience.
The Government agreed to this job evaluation scheme during the negotiations on the last public service stability agreement. This was not foisted upon the Government by the Opposition; it readily entered into it. The agreement confirmed that pay rises worth between €1,500 and €3,000 per employee per year were justified. This was accepted by the HSE and by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The strike was averted last week. The issue being highlighted in the Dáil was constructive and a catalyst in that regard. From the Taoiseach's reply's last week it seems that he and the Government agree that the pay increases recommended by this job evaluation scheme should be honoured.
He said: "The dispute is around the implementation of these pay increases." Will he confirm that the Government accepts that the recommendations emanated from the job evaluation scheme reports? Does he accept that this is a process that was agreed to in 2015 and that the Government agrees that the various increases will need to be paid? The latest developments suggest the Government wants to drag out the process to 2022 with what the Minister, Deputy Harris, describes as a significant offer. Will the Taoiseach clarify and state transparently that the Government's latest position on the job evaluation scheme and the pay increases recommended under it? It seems that there has been a collapse of trust - a breakdown of trust - between the Government side and SIPTU. SIPTU is arguing that the Government has abused the conciliation process and never meaningfully engaged with SIPTU representatives. Is that the case? Has the Government been foot-dragging on this issue?