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Dublin: 4 °C Sunday 17 November, 2019
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'Everybody should be following the example set by nurses': Here's how to help nurses on the picket today

All the ways you can support nurses, from a simple beep of your horn to bringing them lunch.

Nursing strike Source: Niall Carson

AS YOU ARE reading this, the nurses strike organised by the INMO (Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation) is well underway.

From 8am this morning, until 8am tomorrow morning (31st of January), nurses across the country are taking industrial action to deal with what nurses are referring to as the “recruitment and retention crisis among members“. As you probably know, nurses are arguing that they receive insufficient wages for the very long hours that they work, and the incredibly physically, emotionally and psychologically demanding work that they do in order to look after the rest of us. 

Because of the issues surrounding pay and working hours, there is a recruitment crisis – it’s hard to hire people for a job that very few people are capable of doing when the pay abroad for the same jobs is far better.

When people are hired, many find the work challenging as a result of the pay and working hours, and end up leaving the public health system to work for private companies or emigrate to somewhere where they will be paid more fairly for the work that they do. As a country, we simply cannot afford to lose any more nurses from the public health service.

There are 40,000 nurses and midwives currently signed up to the INMO. Of these 40,000, a significant number were polled on whether or not industrial action (like today’s strike) was the best step to take in order to improve working conditions, and 90% of them voted in favour of the strike. 

Nursing strike Source: Niall Carson

What can other workers learn from this strike?

Across all industries in Ireland, there are workers who have had pay-cuts since the recession, or who are working in conditions which employers claimed were necessitated by cutbacks and the recession over the last ten years.

On top of this, there’s now a whole new generation of workers aged 17-30 working for companies on contracts that list them as self-employed, which means that these employees are not entitled to sick days, holidays or any other basic benefits that our parent’s generation have/had at work.

In 2016, the government launched the slogan Keep The Recovery Going, pointing to our high employment figures to show us how much things had improved since the recession, while disregarding the issues that the recession created for many workers and ignoring the emergence of the ‘gig economy’ (a labour market characterised by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work, as opposed to permanent jobs). A lot of people rightfully began to wonder where exactly this recovery was taking place. 

Workers across every industry should be learning from the example set by nurses this week. Nobody should be settling for poor working conditions and insufficient pay. You can join a union relevant to your own industry here.

In the meantime, we can all do our bit to help the nurses have their demands for pay negotiations met

6 ways you can help the nurses on the picket

  1. Use social media! You barely have to lift a finger for this one. Get on Instagram and share you support and raise awareness on your story, or upload photos and messages in support of the nurses on other platforms. Just get the word out to your pals on why it’s important. 
  2. Join the picket. This is a great way to show your support and help boost morale. Even if you can just get out for a few hours on your lunch break, or if you live near a HSE facility where nurses are striking, they’ll definitely appreciate the solidarity. Many people who had appointments today that have been cancelled because of the strike have pledged to spend the time supporting nurses on the picket – so if you hadn’t considered doing that yet, you can go out and thank them for the work that they have done/will do for you in future appointments. 
  3. Bring them some snacks or hot drinks. It’s unfortunate that this strike is taking place on one of the coldest days of the year, but if you can spare a bit of time from your day, you could make this day a lot easier for the staff on the picket lines.
  4. Beep your horn! If you don’t have time to stop by a picket, showing your solidarity as you pass by will help 
  5. Listen to the nurses: In order to keep services running for those who are in dire need of them, patients have been asked not to cross the picket and not to use emergency services unless it is absolutely essential
  6. If you know any nurses, ask them if they need a hand with anything during the strike. This could be something as simple as babysitting for them, or preparing some meals for them in advance. 

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About the author:

Kelly Earley

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