Psychiatric nurses are to strike next month following an ongoing dispute over staffing levels.
Last month, the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action ‘in protest of the continued failure of the Government to bring forward realistic proposals to address the recruitment and retention crisis in nursing'.
The association has now announced its plans for its 6,000 members. It said that psychiatric nurses will refuse to work overtime on January 31 and February 1, 5, 6 and 7. They will then undertake full strike action on February 12, 13 and 14.
According to PNA general secretary, Peter Hughes, a very high level of vacancies means that the HSE is relying on agency staff and overtime to fill the gaps. He noted that the HSE is currently spending €1 million every week on agency nurses and €300,000 per week on overtime.
This is having a detrimental impact on patient care, he insisted.
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he suggested that this issue could be resolved if entry-level nurses were paid on a parity with therapy grade staff.
He explained that currently, the entry-level salary for psychiatric nurses is €29,700, which is €6,000 less than the entry-level salary for occupational therapists, who work two hours less per week.
Both positions require a four-year degree.
As a a result of this, when students graduate, many either go abroad to work or they look for agency work, which pays more than the HSE.
Earlier this week, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation announced that its 37,000 members are set to strike on January 30, due to an ongoing dispute over staff shortages and poor pay (see more here).
If this dispute continues, there will be further 24-hour strikes on February 5, 7, 12, 13 and 14, which would coincide with some of the PNA's strike action.