SIPTU is to escalate its dispute involving health service support staff by balloting staff in at least 20 additional hospitals for strike action following the collapse of talks at the WRC.

Health Division Organiser Paul Bell said that the failure to reach a settlement meant that Wednesday's strike - as well as three more planned for next week - will proceed.

The 24-hour strike will begin at 8am on Wednesday.

The Health Service Executive has said the industrial action will affect "patient and client services".

The organisation has said it will engage with SIPTU for contingency planning at a local level to ensure minimum disruption to patient services where possible.

In a statement, the HSE said the service mostly impacted will include:

  • Deferral of some elective inpatient procedures
  • Significant cancellation of scope procedures
  • Reduced outpatient services
  • Reduced laboratory services for GPs
  • Reduced catering services for both patients and staff
  • Reduced operating theatre activity

It added that patients will be contacted by their hospital if their scheduled procedure or services is affected by the industrial action.

Mr Bell accused the Government of squandering an opportunity to resolve the dispute after the union had deferred two strikes scheduled for last Thursday and tomorrow.

He said the gap is so wide that it was hard to see how it can be resolved without really serious input from the Government.

Mr Bell said that while €16.2m was due to members (excluding chefs) following a job evaluation scheme, the government was only prepared to pay €1.2m.

In addition, he accused the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform of trying the change the job evaluation process, meaning SIPTU members would not get their full entitlements when they assimilated to new pay scales. He said that could not be tolerated. 

Mr Bell said that SIPTU would provide a limited amount of contingency for the HSE and related agencies during the strike to try to minimise the impact on patients. 

However, he acknowledged that that there would be an unfortunate and regrettable impact on patients.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has warned that the consequences of Wednesday's strike would be "extremely disruptive and distressing" for the many patients relying on the health service. 

The department dismissed many of SIPTU's allegations, saying the Government had "constructively and positively" engaged at the WRC to find a resolution and protect patient safety. 

It confirmed that last Friday, the Government side made a "significant", "decent" and "fair" offer, that all the people on the relevant grades would be moved onto the appropriate higher salary scale from November 2019.

However, other management sources accused SIPTU of demanding the equivalent of a 7% pay rise, which would come on top of increases totalling 7.4% over three years under the Public Service Stability Agreement and further benefits for so-called new entrants recruited since 2011 on lower pay. 

The department noted that last Friday's offer had led SIPTU to postpone tomorrow's scheduled stoppage.

The department said: "Disappointingly, the union side have now concluded that this is insufficient to resolve the dispute and have stated their intention to proceed with planned action from Wednesday of this week."

It said that in line with agreed industrial relations procedures, the employer side had offered to refer the dispute to the Labour Court for a binding outcome, but said that regrettably, this too had been refused.

The Department of Health has also issued a statement, saying that health service management engaged in talks "in good faith" and have shown flexibility.

The statement said that a "fair and reasonable offer was on the table", adding that management remains open to referring the dispute to thew Labour Court remains open.

The statement concluded that "there is an onus on SIPTU to re-engage with the industrial relations machinery."

List of hospitals:

Cork University Hospital
Cork University Maternity Hospital
Kerry University Hospital
Mallow General Hospital
South Infirmary Hospital Cork
South Tipperary General Hospital
Wexford General Hospital
St Luke's Hospital Carlow/Kilkenny
Mercy Hospital Cork
Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown
National Rehabilitation Hospital
Beaumont Hospital
St Ita's Portrane
Mater Hospital
St James Hospital
St Vincent’s University Hospital
Tallaght Hospital
Our Lady’s Hospital Navan
Louth County Hospital
Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda
Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin
Rotunda Hospital
Central Mental Hospital
Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar
Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore
Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise
Naas General Hospital
Cavan General Hospital
Letterkenny University Hospital
Sligo General Hospital
Roscommon Hospital
Portiuncula Hospital Ballinasloe
Galway University Hospital
Merlin Park
Mayo University Hospital
UL Hospital Dooradoyle
UL Maternity Hospital
UL Orthopaedic Hospital Croom