Ambulance drivers who are members of the National Ambulance Service Representative Association are staging a ten hour strike today.
This action has been forced on them because the Health Service Executive refuses to recognise their union, the PNA, and will not meet or negotiate with them
Instead, the HSE have engaged in draconian action to break their will.
Members of the union have been sacked and disciplined. They have been threatened with punitive costs if they strike.
The reason is that the HSE insist that the only union they will talk to is SIPTU. Any move to recognise a new union would damage ‘good industrial relations’, they claim.
But what is meant by ‘good relations’? SIPTU and the HSE often engage in conflict – but the Labour Party leaders of SIPTU have a cosy relationship with the HSE.
In the past, SIPTU officials, for example, have gone on junkets with HSE executives to the USA on taxpayers’ money. The ambulance drivers believe that SIPTU is not standing up for their rights and want to be represented by a different union.
They have every democratic right to make that decision. The right to representation is exercised every day by employers. They can choose which legal firm will represent them at the Workplace Relations Commission and, if they are dissatisfied, they can change their representatives. Yet many workers have been denied that right.
SIPTU and the ICTU argue that there must be ‘anti-poaching’ rules to maintain discipline in the labour movement. But this is hypocritical.
During a recent teachers dispute, the TUI was able to openly recruit ASTI members on a promise that its members would get a quicker access to permanent contracts –because they were abided by social partnership. The ICTU or SIPTU never complained about this transfer.
The current ambulance dispute is deeply upsetting for patients. But the fault lies with the HSE.
They should recognise workers rights to choose a representative of their choice – and there would be no dispute.