Nurses have said they are still planning three days of strike action in the coming week as intensive talks resumed on Sunday in an attempt to avert the planned work stoppages.
There are still no signs of a breakthrough in talks at the Labour Court aimed at averting a new wave of strikes by nurses, midwives and psychiatric nurses in the week ahead.
Arriving at the Labour Court on Sunday, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, the general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), said her union would stay in the current process until there was something on the table they could take back to their members.
She said talks at the Labour Court, which have been under way since Friday , were still at an exploratory stage.
She said the INMO still believed a resolution could be found to the dispute over pay and staffing without going outside the existing public service agreement.
Ms Ní Sheaghdha said the Labour Court process was trying to determine whether an outcome could be found within the accord.
In the meantime, she said three strikes on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were still scheduled to go ahead .
She said following the major rally in Dublin on Saturday her members believed they had the backing of the public across the country.
“I think they felt the action they have been taking is being supported. And that is a big step because there are three days [of strikes] planned. “
More than 40,000 members of the INMO and Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) are set to go on strike for three days in the coming week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
On Saturday, tens of thousands of people attended a rally in Dublin city centre in support of the nurses’ campaign.
Nurses and their families and supporters gathered at Parnell Square from noon and began marching down O’Connell Street led by members of the Dublin Fire Brigade Pipe Band at about 12.30, chanting and carrying trade union banners.
The protest moved down Eden Quay and across the Liffey, up Lombard Street and Westland Row to Merrion Street where a stage was erected for speakers in front of Government Buildings.
Addressing the huge crowd, Ms Ní Sheaghdha said that in 2019 there were no further arguments left to deny nurses and midwives equal pay.
“Equal pay for nurses with other graduates is something we have strived for, is something that we seek and it’s something that we intend to get, because without it, nursing and midwifery will still be considered a little bit of a vocation and a little bit of ‘girls going to work’ and girls just not having the right to stand up for themselves.”
Ms Ní Sheaghdha said nurses were not denying there were problems with the economic fabric of the State or that the economic future of the country was important.
But she said they did not believe that our social fabric was secondary and that our public health service was something that should be sacrificed in a recession.
The PNA on Friday escalated its campaign of industrial action over pay and staffing issues and announced three further 24-hour work stoppages for the week after next.
On Friday the HSE formally wrote to the Government expressing concern over patient safety issues in the event of the planned three days of strikes by nurses going ahead in the coming week.