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Two-day strike by PNA ambulance staff to begin tomorrow

Ambulance staff nationwide are to strike for two days from tomorrow in an ongoing row over the choice of union representation with the HSE.

The National Ambulance Service Representative (NASRA), which is part of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA), said that its ambulance personnel members including paramedics, advanced paramedics and emergency medical technicians are being left with no other choice but to strike by the HSE.

The strike by the 500 ambulance personnel members is the third phase of industrial action which started last October in protest at the continued refusal by the HSE to engage in negotiations with the PNA when representing its ambulance branch.

Ambulance staff have already held two days of strike action last January 22 and two weeks ago. The strike will run from 7am to 5pm each day.

This consecutive two-day strike action tomorrow is a further escalation in the campaign by ambulance personnel as they do not want to join a trade union that the HSE wants to force them to join.

Peter Hughes, PNA General Secretary, said ambulance personnel members voted overwhelmingly in September last year for industrial action in pursuance of their basic demand to join, and be represented by, the union of their choice.

“To date the HSE has made absolutely no effort to address or resolve this dispute, and have now forced professional and highly trained ambulance personnel across the country into the unprecedented position of mounting a two-day strike,” said Mr Hughes.

The HSE have chosen to ignore repeated offers by PNA to attend the Work Relations Commission (WRC) talks on this dispute.

"The HSE have further ignored the calls by Minister for Health, Simon Harris and many other Dail Deputies to resolve this dispute through negotiation rather than confrontation.

“Instead, the HSE has chosen to inflame the situation by refusing to recognise the right of ambulance personnel to be members of a branch of the PNA despite the fact that PNA ambulance branch represents more members by far than at least one of the two unions recognised by the HSE for frontline paramedics.”

Mr Hughes added: “Ambulance branch members of the PNA met with TDs and Senators in Leinster and received strong cross-party support for their campaign this week.

“Thursday and Friday’s strike action is a further demonstration of the determination of ambulance personnel to secure their rights to union membership and it is way past the time for the HSE to recognise this and bring this unnecessary dispute to an end.”

This ongoing strike is the first time in 100 years that members of the Ambulance service have taken to the picket line as an independent body - separate to other HSE employees.

The HSE has consistently insisted that the PNA does not have negotiating rights and said they will only deal with the union Siptu. They would also not comment on High Court moves to gain an injunction.

However, the Executive defended its stances in relation to NASRA and said ambulance personnel were well represented through agreed industrial relations processes.

“Recognition of other associations or unions would undermine the positive engagement that exists and would impair good industrial relations in the National Ambulance Service.

It is a well-established principle of public policy that fragmentation of union representation in the public sector is not in the interests either of the public or of workers.

“The principle of engaging only with recognised trade unions has been acknowledged previously by the Labour Court.

"This approach is in keeping within Government policy and supports the consolidation that is happening within the wider trade-union environment.”