One of the main hospitals in the south of the country was disrupted yesterday as security workers went on strike in protest at being replaced by lower-paid staff.
Ireland online reported that the picket outside the Waterford Regional Hospital affected admissions and resulted in planned procedures being cancelled.
The union, SIPTU, said the security workers at the hospital were picketing because their employer, a private company, Sentry Security, lost its contract at the facility.
A spokeswoman for the hospital confirmed the unofficial action had disrupted services at the hospital.
The hospital urged patients with appointments for admission for procedures to contact the hospital prior to travelling.
SIPTU regional secretary Mike Jennings said the new company, Secureway, has informed the union it will be bringing in new workers on lower rates.
“This case highlights yet another instance of a state agency deliberately opting for a low pay employer, regardless of the consequences for existing workers,” Mr Jennings claimed.
The hospital confirmed workers from other areas of the facility were supporting the security workers’ picket at the gates.
“Waterford Regional Hospital is very disappointed that this action is being taken particularly as the hospital is not involved in the industrial relations dispute between the employer and its employees,” a statement from the hospital said.
“The hospital is being used as a tool in an external industrial relations issue and is affecting patients who have been waiting for hospital appointments. The hospitals management is asking all of the people involved in the dispute to resolve their issues and to remove the picket from the hospital.”
The hospital said a full security service was in place at the hospital from Secureway Ltd which took over the contract from 7am today.
SIPTU said Sentry Security had held the contract at the hospital for the past seven years – with some staff holding up to nine years service through the company and its previous employers at the hospital.
Mr Jennings said the union had contacted the new contractor to ensure the continuity of employment for members under the Transfer of Undertakings Regulations, 2003.
“The management of the new company is maintaining this is not a transfer of undertakings and the legislation does not apply. We are confident that it does apply and that precedent exists at the WRH in the case of other service providers such as cleaning contractors,” he said.
The union said through collective bargaining it had secured rates for its members above the minimum rates and extra leave days.
“When job displacement is mentioned people usually think it involves vulnerable migrant workers but this is a home grown example of the ’race to the bottom’, in which hundreds of thousands of people working in Ireland face the prospect of minimum rates and conditions also becoming the maximum,” Mr Jennings said.