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Further ambulance strikes likely if HSE refuse to recognise PNA

Further ambulance strikes are likely if the HSE continues to refuse to recognise the right of more than 500 personnel to be represented by the union of their choice, the Psychiatric Nurses Association has warned.

The staff, who are members of the National Ambulance Service (NAS), will stage their 4th 12-hour strike tomorrow. It is a further escalation in their campaign over union recognition.

PNA general secretary, Peter Hughes, said the union will meet again on Tuesday to devise a plan and warned that their next step could involve more strikes.

The HSE said ambulance personnel was well represented through agreed industrial processes and the NAS recognises SIPTU, UNITE and FóRSA for staff in the service.

“Recognition of other associations or unions would undermine the positive engagement that exists and would impair good industrial relations in the NAS,” the health authority said. "Recognising breakaway unions has a destabilising effect on good industrial relations."

The HSE will not deduct union subscriptions from ambulance personnel who are members of the PNA, as it does for other union members.

“The principle of engaging only with recognised trade unions has been acknowledged previously by the Labour Court in a dispute involving the PNA and a different public-sector employer,” it pointed out.

Mr Hughes, who was speaking on the picket line at the Davitt Road ambulance centre in Dublin yesterday, rejected claims that recognising the PNA would destabilise industrial relations in the ambulance service. He said the PNA has a 49-year history of representing members in the health service and no one can say they are a new or breakaway union.

The HSE said a number of calls received were responded to by Defence Force ambulances because of the strike by PNA members.

Mr Hughes said the striking ambulance personnel were not receiving any strike pay from the union but were being paid when coming off the picket line to provide emergency cover.

The HSE said the NAS is managing the situation despite the challenges being experienced. A “robust contingency plan” has been agreed and is being implemented nationally.

It said senior management within NAS are continuing to monitor the situation right across the country.

“Their focus is the delivery of a safe service for the public and while the volume of calls to date is as anticipated, the ability to respond has been maintained to date,” the HSE stated. “We are continuing to seek ot ensure that service and care delivery are not compromised.”

During the 12-hour stoppages from 7am to 5pm managers who are qualified paramedics are carrying out frontline duties.

The PNA is providing emergency cover where necessary and the union has not called on members of other unions to participate in the strike.

The HSE is advising people in an emergency situation to dial 112/999 as normal and the ambulance will respond.