In defiance of government spin nurses cry Enough is enough


The West’s awake, so too the other provinces, as defiant nurses and midwives take to the picket lines. Buoyed by massive public support, members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) took part in their first strike in 20 years.

Generally feeling undervalued and suffering the effects of prolonged understaffing and hospital overcrowding these workers counter-intuitively withdrew their labour in the first of a series of 24-hour work stoppages.

Known for their dedication and immense sense of good will which has for decades covered up the cracks in a health service that itself seems to be in ill-health, this female dominated profession has once again risen up to say “Enough is enough!”

The government spin speaks of “demands” and “claims across the public service” and refuse to engage with the INMO to avert further strike action. The industrial relations mechanisms of the State too are slow to show any interest in resolving the dispute. Labour Court talks ended and no further engagement has started up to now.

There are no demands here, simply a Union representing the vast majority of nurses and midwives in the country who wish to negotiate a deal which will see the employer, the HSE be in a favourable position to recruit and retain staff. The right-wing press attempt to paint these workers in the worst light. They attempt to portray a group only interested in seeking “pay hikes”.
Nurses and midwives being the lowest paid professionals in the public service argue that this is not the case. They say that pay parity with other similar grades in the HSE is what they want. They quite rightly ask: why another worker with the same level qualification works less hours in the week for more pay that they do?

This includes physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, radiographers among others. The nurses do not wish to devalue the work of their allied health colleagues, merely to highlight the current anomalies. The INMO wants to understand why there are international recruitment agencies luring Irish nurses abroad when there is a shortage here, all under the eye of the Department of Health.

The nursing shortage creates the need for the State to recruit nurses from abroad at a cost of nearly €10,000 per nurse. Irish nurses are highly sought after abroad because of their high level education and training. Many nurses and midwives desire the opportunity to go abroad after finishing their training to build on their skills and gain some life experience.

The majority express the desire to return, after all home is where the heart is, however the State does not truly recognise their value and thus offers them no incentive to return. These nurses have a simple message “give us a reason to come home”.

International solidarity has been strong in recent weeks with nursing communities in Australia, United States, UK, Europe and the Middle East expressing the messages of support via social media the message is “we all stand with nurses and midwives” in Ireland.

So the struggle continues, in the face of government apathy and thinly veiled threats of financial penalties on nurses, as the INMO announces further strike dates in the coming weeks bringing the total number of days to 8, with an escalation in the number of healthcare workplaces from 82 on day one to 240 on Tuesday, February 5th.

Can the HSE sustain this strike, it is difficult to see how it will, public pressure must come to bear on the politicians who seem for the most part disinterested, as waiting lists grow due to cancellations will the INMO be able to drag the government to the negotiating table and hammer out a deal that will see our nurses and midwives once again values as the backbone and beating heart of the health services.

This piece was written by a nurse and INMO member who is part of the ongoing industrial action.