I propose to take Questions Nos. 344, 457 and 460 together.
As the Deputies are aware, a branch of the Psychiatric Nurses Association called the National Ambulance Service Representative Association (NASRA) has been engaged in industrial action. The Psychiatric Nurses Association state that their 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 that are members of a number of unions. These are SIPTU, FORSA 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 with 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 long standing 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.