The issues of nurses' pay and working hours have been fully processed through the State's industrial relations structures and procedures — the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court. While health service management have accepted the Labour Court Recommendation, the Irish Nurses Organisation and Psychiatric Nurses Association state that they have neither accepted nor rejected this Recommendation and instead served notice of industrial action.
The INO and PNA had been due to commence industrial action from 12 March 2007. This action would have involved a nationwide work to rule and short work stoppages. Following contacts between Government representatives and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) it was agreed to put in place an intensive time bound process of engagement under the aegis of the National Implementation Body (NIB), to address the issues underpinning the dispute, taking account of the relevant Labour Court recommendations. The INO and PNA agreed to postpone their industrial action until 2 April.
The talks commenced on 12 March and are due to conclude tomorrow 30 March. In addition to the INO and PNA, SIPTU who are not in dispute, are represented at the talks. The talks are concentrating on two main issues — the claim for a reduction in the working week from 39 to 35 hours and the perceived pay anomaly in the Intellectual Disability sector. The NIB have requested both sides to refrain from public comment on the discussions while the process is ongoing and this has been agreed by the parties. At the end of this week, a detailed position statement is due to be prepared by the National Implementation Body and presented to both sides for their consideration.
I believe that this process is the best prospect of finding a satisfactory solution and I would like to state that officials from my Department and the HSE are fully and positively engaged in the process.