Ambulance staff in Cork and across Ireland have gone on strike over the government’s refusal to recognise the National Ambulance Service Representative Association (NASRA) as an official union.
Around 600 members of the NAS nationally wish to be represented by the union but the government will only deal with the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) which represents a large cohort of ambulance staff.
The Minister for health and the HSE have been called on to engage with the union but the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) and a Cork TD said they have failed to do so.
Speaking in the Dail this week, Deputy Mick Barry (Solidarity) accused the government of adopting a “hard line, union-busting policy”.
He said the ambulance sector is severely underfunded and that the government and HSE do not want to deal with it.
He said there is a culture of “chronic overworking” within the sector which he claimed is under-resourced by around 600 staff and 300 ambulances.
“Instead of confronting this issue, the government prefer to overstretch ambulance staff with pressure, threats and suspensions,” said Deputy Barry.
It was revealed last month that six ambulance staff in Cork were reprimanded after telling management they were unable to safely carry out an emergency request to drive to Dublin as they were approaching the end of a 12-hour shift.
Two ambulance workers were suspended, two more were cautioned and two others were spoken to following the incident over the weekend that saw the emergency request to transfer an infant to Crumlin Hospital passed through three crews.
The transfer was eventually taken by Macroom ambulance staff at 6.15am after the call went out 5am on Monday morning.
The concerns raised from the ambulance staff were centred around the health and safety of both the patient and themselves due to potential fatigue.
While the formal disciplinary process usually takes around four to six weeks, Deputy Barry said the two workers have been suspended for more than eight months.