Siptu to ballot members at National Ambulance Service over strike action

Siptu To Ballot Members At National Ambulance Service Over Strike Action
A National Ambulance Service logo on one of the 500 ambulance staff from the Psychiatric Nurses Association, who are staging a 10-hour strike, take part in a picket outside an ambulance station on Dublin's Davitt Road in a dispute over union recognition.
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Louise Walsh

Siptu has informed the head of the National Ambulance Service (NAS) that it intends to ballot members on industrial action over the recognition of paramedics.

Siptu has warned NAS director Robert Morton that the action will take place unless a business case to provide a proposed new structure within the NAS, which has been outstanding "for some time", is implemented.


The proposals include that all new paramedics will have a level-eight degree qualification, and it will be recognised as a profession, with graded pay scales.

The proposals also include new grades for community and specialist paramedics, as well as paramedic supervisors and clinical paramedical supervisors, in addition to new job descriptions for those grades and reformed management structures.

A letter to Mr Morton from Siptu ambulance sector organiser Ted Kenny said: "You will be aware that the business case to provide for the proposed new structure within the National Ambulance Service has been outstanding for some considerable period.

"As per our previous engagements, I have outlined to you the distinct concern of our membership with the time which has passed in progressing the business case through the HSE and now with the [Departments of Health and Public Expenditure].


"It is now Siptu's intention to ballot our members in the National Ambulance Service for industrial action up to and including strike action.

"Our members have fully co-operated with the plan developed by you, in your role as national director, and they expect to receive the commitments made to them which reflect the enhanced role they provide within the National Ambulance Service."


Mr Kenny's letter continued: "Our union will not accept any deviation from the reality that it is management's function to secure the necessary funding to deliver the agreed vision for the service. This includes payments arising to staff as part of the overall restructuring plan.

"We do not accept the premise that delivery of the service level aspects of the management plan are permitted, yet the commitments to staff in return are deemed to be a cost increasing claim. It is the function of management to secure the necessary funding to deliver the commitment it has made through the business case and not one which sits with any trade union."


He said the union will communicate its intentions on the progression of the dispute when the proposed ballot has been completed.

A source within the NAS said: "We have co-operated fully, but we are fed-up of this plan being pushed down the line.

"We want our profession to be recognised. At the minute, emergency medical technicians are classed as support staff, as driver attendances.

"If the HSE doesn't recognise our profession, then what will the public think of us? So many times, we have called to houses and occupants have said, 'oh, the ambulance driver is here'. It is so disrespectful to us, especially as most of us now have a level-eight degree.


"You don't call someone taking x-rays in hospital a photographer, you call them a radiographer," they said.

The NAS source added that the review in question started back in 2018, noting if the proposals are implemented "a lot of paramedics will stand to gain substantial increases in wages".

"We are working so hard now and the service is haemorrhaging staff. I know of 20 people who have left the service in the last six months.

"We don't go in for a 12-hour shift anymore - it's 14 or 15 hours. We are just exhausted. You don't see many ambulances flashing the blue lights anymore. We've got slower and slower," they said.


"Many of the advanced paramedics have gone into managerial roles now and, to my knowledge, there are no further courses planned to train any extra this year.

"There are over 2,000 people in the service who work so hard and just want to get the recognition they so richly deserve. I thought morale in the service was at an all-time low, but it's dropped even lower."

A spokesperson for the HSE said: "Following a WRC facilitated process, the National Ambulance Service (NAS) and trade union partners in Unite and SIPTU have worked in collaboration to address the recommendations of the “Review and Examination of current EMT, Paramedic and Advanced Paramedic roles in the National Ambulance Service”.

"The Report of that Review required the parties to develop “recommendations on the appropriate grading structure including updated salary scales”.

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"The current Building Momentum Pay Agreement is clear in that no sectoral or grade-based claims for improvement to pay and conditions will be considered for processing over the lifetime of this Agreement. In this context, the collaborative work and joint “recommendations on the appropriate grading structure including updated salary scales” were presented through a business case for change jointly developed by Unite, SIPTU and the NAS.

"The joint developed Business Case, which has been endorsed by the HSE, was initially submitted to the Department of Health (DoH) in January 2023, with a view for referral to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) for potential inclusion in the next round national public sector pay discussions."

The HSE said that in the meantime it will "continue to work to advance the professionalisation agenda within NAS that also seeks to recognise the important work carried out by NAS staff throughout the past three years and in the ongoing implementation of Slaintecare."

*This story was updated at 1pm on Monday, April 24th, 2023

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