Medical scientists to suspend strike action next week and will return to WRC for talks

MEDICAL SCIENTISTS WILL suspend their strike action next week and will return to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to resolve recruitment and retention issues.

The Medical Laboratory Scientists’ Association (MLSA) has agreed to return to the WRC following recommendations from the Labour Court today, with three days of strike action next week being suspended.

This led to a request from the Labour Court that all parties engage with one another at the WRC for at least three weeks from today.

Yesterday, the Labour Court invited the MLSA, the HSE and the Department of Health for exploratory talks on the long-standing issues of recruitment and retention.

Following the invitation, the MLSA told its 2,100 members to suspend all planned strike action for today and that they should return to work as normal.

According to a statement from the MLSA, the Labour Court has sought to be notified after three weeks whether or not an agreement has been reached.

If outstanding issues remain after three weeks, these will then be referred back to the Labour Court which will be able to make a recommendation that is binding for all parties.

In a statement, MLSA General Secretary Terry Casey said the Union remained committed to resolving severe recruitment and retention issues in the sector and to achieving a sustainable work structure for Medical Scientists, patients and the Irish health service.

Previous to strike action being called, medical scientists said that they made every effort to avoid strike action, but felt they had been left with no other option after a 20-year claim for pay parity with colleagues who do the same work. 

Speaking to The Journal at the picket outside St James’ Hospital in Dublin yesterday morning, MLSA industrial relations officer Bronagh O’Leary said the union believes the HSE has “room to manoeuvre” despite public pay agreements. 

“We’ve been trying to be very reasonable in that process, but this is a 20-year claim,” she said. 

The dispute centres on a decades-long demand for pay parity with colleagues in laboratories who are doing the same work. The union has said medical scientists are paid on average 8% less than colleagues in hospital laboratories who are doing the same work. Medical laboratory aides, who report to medical scientists, also start on a higher salary.

A 2001 expert report recommended pay parity for medical scientists. This was briefly implemented but was lost within months in the first public service benchmarking process in June 2002, which evaluated the pay and jobs of public service roles. 

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-Additional reporting by Michelle Hennessy and Rónán Duffy 

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