A major nursing union in the Republic of Ireland is launching a consultative ballot to see whether nursing staff would take part in industrial action over pay.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said it will begin a week-long pre-ballot information campaign from 24 August, to assess its members’ appetite for “potential industrial action”.
“It is time to stand together with other public servants and show that this treatment of public servants is simply not acceptable”
Phil Ní Sheaghdha
It follows a meeting of its executive council, said the INMO, which is the largest Irish professional union for nurses and midwives, with 35,000 members.
The union said the pre-ballot campaign would commence with a view to begin balloting for industrial action on 1 September, if the government “fails to make a meaningful offer in the meantime”.
It follows an announcement made in June by the Irish Congress of Trade Union’s (ITCU) Public Services Committee.
It said the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform had offered public sector workers pay rises of 2.5% for the period 2021-2022, as well as proposing another 2.5% for the following year.
However, unions have warned that this is despite expected annual inflation of at least 9% over the two-year period.
The INMO said the government had failed to come forward and renegotiate the public sector pay deal with a more “palatable offer”.
INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said the decision to ballot nurses and midwives was not one “taken lightly” but that minister’s refusal to act during a cost-of-living crisis left them “very little choice”.
She said: “Talks have been suspended since June 17th while inflation has reached a high of 9.1%, fuel continues to remain extremely expensive, rents continue to rise and childcare costs equal that of a second mortgage.
“Nurses and midwives do not get to opt-out of these costs or find ways to cut corners as working from home is not an option,” she said.
Ms Ni Sheaghdha added that the current offer of 2.5% for two years will “do very little” to bridge the gap between the real pay of nurses and midwives and cost of living increases.
She added: “If we are serious about maintaining and expanding the current nursing and midwifery workforce then as the employer, government must come forward with a realistic solution.
“Nurses and midwives are facing another difficult winter, the commitment shown since February 2020 when this pandemic hit should of itself have led to a realistic pay offer by government last June, and it is time to stand together with other public servants and show that this treatment of public servants is simply not acceptable.”
The union in the Republic of Ireland has joined neighbouring unions in England, Scotland and Wales, which are also preparing to ballot their members on industrial action over pay.
In Northern Ireland, there is currently no pay offer for 2022-23, meaning a pay rise for nursing staff in the country is set to be delayed.
Nursing Times attempted to reach out to the government for comment.