In Support of the Nurses and Midwives strike
On Wednesday 30 January, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) will initiate thesecond strike of its 100 year history.
For years now, the crises of recruitment and retention in the nursery and midwifery professions has steadily accumulated, now coming to the inevitable point of rupture and confrontation.
Low pay and understaffing has led a large volume of Irish nurses emigrating or career switching, as well as contributing to a considerable decline in healthcare quality standards.
Since Fine Gael came to power in 2011 we have seen a dramatic escalation in privatisation measures and crisis in every front of the health sector.
Because of Fine Gael’s failure to stem the recruitment and retention crisis, the state has subsequently become over-reliant on the use costly and more expensive agency staff to shore up the staffing gaps.
In 2011, agency spend was recorded at €158 million a year, but by 2017 it had jumped to €293 million.
These features correspond to othersections of the health system like ambulance services and screening programmes.
That the INMO have determined on strike action is of little surprise and is to be supported.
There is no prospect of goodwill or benevolence‘trickling down’ from the government.
By the nature of the state and economy in the 26 counties, nursing and midwifery are expected to accept their ‘fate’ as of being of little value and little merit.
This design and structure of the 26 county state which not only puts accommodating the interests of capitalists above all else, but debases itself to such a pitiful extent in maintaining extreme low tax rates in a desperate effort to generate ‘business’ and to appease the multinational capital class.
The tax-haven economy of the Dublin government as a consequence means that someone else has to pick up the bill as compensation.
Workers are forced to endurelower standards of public services and higher costs of living, comparedto their European counterparts.
Nurses and midwives bear some of the worst brunt of that burden.
The disruption to the health system will be immense; but industrial action will be the only means forundervalued healthcare workers to assert their demands.
Once the government recognise that, they’ll start listening.
As Republicans, we understand the wider national dimensions of this struggle as well.
The existence of HSE is not only an institution which binds the people of the 26 counties to a substandard rate of healthcare provision, but it also acts as a massive barrier towards the realisation of a reunified32-county Republic.
Any new Ireland will come into existence will need a new Irish NHS which offers universal healthcare, free at the point and ensures its workers are valued and payed fairly.
In that light, it’s of the utmost importance that the nurses and midwives win.
With great hope we can strive forward to build a Republic that is befitting of patriots like Kathleen Lynn and Elizabeth O’Farrell.
- By James Lyons