The Labour Court has recommended that all sides in an industrial dispute involving medical scientists should return to the Workplace Relations Commission to resolve a long-standing row over pay and career progression.
Following exploratory talks today, the Labour Court said it was its understanding that the employer, which in this case is the Department of Health, was in a position to "share developed thinking as regards the means and mechanisms to achieve a resolution within the constraints resting upon it."
The court requested that the parties engage further at the Workplace Relations Commission for a period of at least three weeks from today.
Any outstanding issues can then be referred back to the Labour Court.
The union representing medical scientists, the Medical Laboratory Scientists' Association, says it will accept the recommendation and not engage in any further strike action while the talks are ongoing.
"The court has requested that we lift further industrial action and we are happy to do so," said Bronagh O'Leary, Industrial Relations Officer with the MLSA.
"We have to sell this to our members too who want a resolution and have waited a long time. We've been at the WRC before so we'll have to bring the message to them that we have been told there is 'new thinking' rather than the same talk we have been having for the last six months," she said.
"We are hopeful and the Labour Court has led us to believe that it will be different this time, how different it is remains to be seen and we may be back at the Labour Court after that again," she added.
Strike action planned for today was suspended yesterday after the Medical Laboratory Scientists' Association accepted an invitation to the talks.
The negotiations were also attended by the Health Service Executive, the Department of Health and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
Exploratory talks at the Labour Court aimed at resolving the medical scientists dispute have concluded. The court is recommending that both sides return to the Workplace Relations Commission. @MedLabAssoc says there will be no strike action while the talks are ongoing. @rtenews pic.twitter.com/obzun6ETCy— Brian O'Donovan (@BrianOD_News) May 25, 2022
Medical scientists held the second in a series of strikes yesterday.
The action caused widespread disruption in hospitals across the country with thousands of procedures being cancelled.
The HSE said hospitals would endeavour to resume appointments as quickly as possible but that inevitably, there would still be some cancellations today.
"Hospitals will contact patients directly to advise them on any updates or changes to arrangements," the HSE said in a statement.
The UL Hospitals Group said is it making "every effort to reinstate as many procedures as possible" in University Hospital Limerick, University Maternity Hospital Limerick, and Ennis, Nenagh, St John's and Croom Orthopaedic hospitals.
In a statement, it also said all GP laboratory services will operate as normal today.
Solidarity-PBP has tabled a private members' motion in support of the medical scientists' demands for improvements to conditions and pay.
Paul Murphy told the Dáil that some workers he had spoken to had worked "fifteen days with no days off".
He noted that both the PBP motion and the Government counter-motion refer to the medical scientists as "hidden heroes", which he welcomed.
And he pointed out that "it is an overwhelmingly feminised workforce", which is about 80% female.
Richard Boyd Barrett called the counter-motion "an insult" as it engages in "penny-pinching".
He said the strike shows that the medical scientists have been "left behind" by the partnership process, which has failed not only them, but many other undervalued workers.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly thanked the deputies for raising the motion, and said it is his "sincere hope" that a resolution can be found.