Ambulance crews across Cork and Ireland are to enter into a 24-hour strike this Friday as a dispute with the HSE escalates.
Ambulance crews have gone on strike on around 10 separate occasions so far this year, adding to the issues facing the health service, and have also protested outside the Dáil.
The action centres on the refusal of the HSE to recognise the National Ambulance Service Representative Association (NASRA), a branch of the PNA, as the trade union of choice for more than 500 ambulance staff personnel.
NASRA had warned that unless the HSE recognise and negotiate with the union, its members would engage in 24 hour strike action.
David Walker, an advanced paramedic in Cork, has told The Echo that NASRA members are determined to push on with the action and gain acknowledgement from the HSE.
He said the protest outside the Dáil earlier this month attracted public attention and support from other unions.
Sinead McGrath, chairperson of NASRA, said the union will look to step up its industrial action but aims to ensure that patients are not impacted the most.
She told The Echo that the possibility of rolling 24 hour strikes will be discussed after the action this Friday.
Ms McGrath said the union’s members do not want to put patients in danger and that it is only the goodwill of ambulance crews responding to emergency calls while on strike that has propped up the service.
“They’re being docked wages but keep going out and answering calls throughout the strike period.
“It’s because of this, not the HSE, that there have been no adverse incidents and we don’t want there to be so we will have to look carefully at our actions going forward.
“If there’s something that can have less of an effect on patients while impacting HSE management more, then that’s certainly something we’ll look at,” she added.
“With the Dáil on holiday for the summer, we will then be taking the time to regroup and assess our moves going forward.
“The strikes have been successful in explaining to people the legitimacy behind our dispute.
“It’s not actually about health, it’s about worker’s rights and the rights to be represented by a union of your choice, and that affects workers across the country.
“We will assess our position and decide what’s next but it’s certainly not over.
“We won’t and can’t go away until this battle has been won.”
The ambulance service will have contingency plans in place to deal with emergencies during any strike action.