SIPTU and health service remain at the Labour Court this evening in a bid to resolve a pay dispute involving up to 17,000 health support staff.

The dispute has already triggered one day of strike action by 10,000 staff including health care assistants, porters, and cleaners as well as laboratory and operating theatre aides.

SIPTU has warned that if the dispute is not resolved, members are prepared to resume their industrial action which would see further disruption for patients.

The union argues that the staff in question are entitled to pay rises of up to €3,000 a year following a job evaluation scheme which found their roles had expanded to warrant increases.

However, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, which oversees public service pay, has disputed the level of pay rises due and when they should be implemented.

The Labour Court has been hearing from the two sides for six days, and it is understood that increments remain a central issue.

Informed sources noted that if the two sides remain too far apart, the Labour Court has the power to decline to issue a recommendation at this point.

In that situation, a resumption of industrial action could be on the cards, with resulting disruption for patients.

Arriving for the talks, SIPTU Health Division Organiser Paul Bell said it was difficult to say what progress if any had been made up to this point, but that it was worth exhausting every avenue with the Labour Court in trying to reach a resolution.

He accused the Government of deciding that they did not have to honour the job evaluation agreement right now, which he said was absolutely at variance with the position of SIPTU members. 

He described the mood of members as quite restrained at this point, but cautioned that they had made it quite clear that if it proved necessary to resume their industrial action, they would do so.

He also noted that the outcome to the dispute could feed into the union's position on any future public service agreement, if the current deal was not honoured.