Tuesday, 25 March 1997
Dáil Éireann Debate
122. Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health the current position in relation to the negotiations for emergency terms and conditions for ambulance drivers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7972/97]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,: Limerick East): I refer the Deputy to replies given on 26 September, 17 October and 11 February on this issue. I have already outlined that the report of the Review Group on the Ambulance Service was published in November 1993. The group, in their report, stated that the ambulance service is an emergency service similar to the gardaí and fire service. The report of the review group has been accepted by Government and forms the basis of Government policy in relation to the ambulance service.
In relation to the pay and conditions of ambulance personnel and controllers in provincial locations, I have clarified the nature of the claim made by SIPTU on behalf of ambulance personnel in previous responses. Briefly, this claim, lodged in 1993, sought parity of pay between the provincial ambulance personnel and their counterparts in Dublin. Final agreement, including concession of this claim for parity, was reached on a package of proposals in December 1996. A ballot on this package was started at the end of last year. For technical reasons on the union side the ballot had to be rearranged. A second ballot was completed on 28 February. The offer made was rejected by both driver-attendant and controller groups.
A ballot for industrial action was undertaken in relation to these two grades in provincial locations. The result was a vote in favour of strike action. Any strike action is a breach of the industrial peace clause contained in the PCW agreement.  Details have not yet been made available by the Union of the grounds for rejection of the deal on offer, or the issues which remain in dispute. I would urge them to utilise the industrial relations machinery available by considering a resumption of discussions with the Labour Relations Commission on the outstanding issues; and-or a referral of the matter to a full hearing of the Labour Court.
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