WEST Cork’s paramedics took to the picket lines last Tuesday in Castletownbere, Skibbereen, Dunmanway, Macroom and the Kinsale Road roundabout in Cork – to protest over the Health Service Executive’s failure to recognise the National Ambulance Service Representative Association, (NASRA) which is affiliated to the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA), as their chosen trade union.
And the ambulance workers in West Cork this week paid tribute to Cape Clear blind islander Ed Harper, who travelled five hours on Tuesday with his guide dog to express his solidarity with their cause.
Paramedic and NASRA member David Walker told The Southern Star: ‘Ed Harper travelled five hours from Cape Clear to the Kinsale Road roundabout to support us – that’s a ferry and two buses.’
The paramedic said: ‘We didn’t want to picket but we felt we had no choice because the HSE is not giving us our representational rights.’
Between the hours of 7am and 5pm on Tuesday the government deployed Defence Forces ambulances and personnel to provide cover.
But, Mr Walker said, NASRA also had a contingency plan.
‘It consisted of its own members manning ambulances next to the picket lines, and they were ready to respond to life-threatening calls.’
Last November, NASRA members refused to work overtime because they claimed the ambulance service is ‘in crisis and is being run on overtime.’
Mr Walker, who is a NASRA committee member for the Cork and Kerry region, and is based in Macroom, confirmed: ‘It is our intention to hold future strike actions until the HSE agrees to give us our negotiation and representational rights.’
West Cork Sinn Féin Cllr Paul Hayes also expressed his support for the striking ambulance crews, saying: ‘What a sad state of affairs it is when our frontline staff – the heroes who literally save lives, day in, day out – are left with no alternative but to go on strike.’
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