Home | Industry & Reform | Give us a reason to come home: Australian-based Irish nurses show solidarity with strikers
Federation Square 28th Jan. Credit: Mark O'Driscoll

Give us a reason to come home: Australian-based Irish nurses show solidarity with strikers

The major union representing Irish nurses has announced two extra days of strike action, taking the total to seven 24-hour strike days for the month of February.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) is seeking a pay rise of 7,000 euros per annum (approximately $11,000 AUD) – a twelve per cent rise.

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha told the Irish Times that “everybody – except the government – recognises that there is a serious understaffing problem in our health services. The public support for the strike on Wednesday showed that the Irish people stand with nurses and midwives.”

“We simply want to be able to do our jobs, but our health service cannot hire enough nurses and midwives on these uncompetitive wages,” she said.

Over 30,000 nurses from the INMO manned picket lines outside hospitals on Wednesday 30 Jan, and in a show of solidarity, hundreds of Australian-based Irish nurses hosted gatherings across Sydney and Melbourne.

The organiser of the gathering in Federation Square, Irish nurse Mark O’Driscoll, who is currently working in Melbourne, said: “It’s a bit of support to show we haven’t forgotten about them, that we’re right behind them.”

For O'Driscoll, it isn't only money that is of concern, telling Nursing Review that "number one is the working conditions. It’s a hugely stressful environment working as a nurse in Ireland. You do twelve-hour days, which nine times out of ten turn into a thirteen-hour day."

“It’s a problem retaining nurses, trying to stop young Irish nurses going abroad, to Australia, Canada, England the Middle East for better pay and better conditions,” he said.

“It was like I was forced out of nursing in Ireland. I am normally very laid back, but when I knew I’d be working I’d be very stressed, and you’d go home from your shift and you can’t switch off. You’re awake at night."

Of his life working here in Australia, O’Driscoll said that along with shorter shifts, he earns around twenty-five per cent more here, but more than that, his mental wellbeing is improved, and the patients feel the benefits.

“Money is only a small bit. It’s reducing the stress, better working conditions and for nurses to provide a better healthcare system for the people of Ireland.

“Sometimes you would have seven patients to one nurse in any shift. I’ve often seen people left with nine, ten patients. Whereas here, we have strict guidelines which they adhere to, no questions asked.

“A lot of people here want to go home one day, but they won’t until there are better conditions, better wages, and that was our message,” he said.

The next strike is scheduled for 5 February and the number of services affected will reach 240, including respite services for the elderly and those with disabilities.

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