Momentum and support has been growing for nurses and midwives ever since they overwhelmingly voted in favour, late last-year, for taking strike-action over issues of payment. Their primary concern is that the incredibly low-pay offered to Irish nurses is leading to massive staff retention issues, with many nurses leaving the service due to the duress of the job and with many more graduating nurses deciding to emigrate rather than join the HSE.
After the first day of unilateral strikes last Wednesday, which saw around 40,000 members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation take part in a 24 hour total strike, it was announced that there would be a further seven days of strikes planned throughout February, due to the government's reluctance to budge on the issue.
The government's hardline approach, and reluctance to fund the much needed salary increases, which would roughly equate to a pay rise of around €7,000 per nurse, has attracted much censure. The opposition, and large swathes of the general public, are incredibly sympathetic to the plight of the nurses and midwives and understand that this is very much a last resort course of action that they have been forced into.
It is hard not to sympathise with the fact that, given how emotionally intensive a job nursing is, not too mention how much training it requires, it is abhorrent that they are expected to work for such low pay. One would expect that, given they are the professional bedrock of the HSE, they ought be paid an amount that allows them to live comfortably and, with enough stresses and anxieties being inherent to the job, not to be burdened with financial concerns in their personal lives.
With some 50,000 people having had medical appointments cancelled today, and many more affected, particularly elderly patients and those with disabilities, there is renewed urgency for the government to seek some adequate resolution with INMO. Given that there are six more strikes planned for 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 21 of February, they will only come under increased pressure as the month rolls on.
While the strikes so far have predominantly seen nurses and midwives picketing at health facilities - with 240 locations involved today, an increase from the 82 last week - People Before Profit are seeking for members of the public to join the INMO protest march this Saturday so that members of the public may more visibly lend their support to the striking nurses.
The March will begin at 12:30 this Saturday, February 9, beginning at the Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square and will head toward Leinster House over the following hour.
If you would like to attend to lend your support then the Facebook page for the event can be found here.