Right, first off, let me state clearly that the nurses are legally entitled to do what they are doing. It’s a free country and protesting is their right under law. Let me also say that they obviously feel passionately about their cause, they obviously have strong grievances that needs to be resolved and they aught to be given a fair hearing. Their union leaders are determined, eloquent, focused on the issues and willing to make exceptions for serious cases, and the best of luck to them.
It’s not towards the the nurses particularly that I’m focusing my displeasure. It’s members of the public who are giving the nurses all their support without a thought that get on my goat. Oh the poor nurses! Such hard working people! They deserve a huge increase in their salary and a 35 hour working week and the big, bad government won’t give it to them. Those bloody politicians! Boo Government! Yay Nurses!
Let’s think about this for a minute, shall we?
Who exactly are the Government meant to work for?
Yes. They are meant to work for us.
And who pays the Government?
Got it in one. You. Me. The Irish taxpayers.
And what do we expect our Government to do with our money?
Yep. You got that one too. Spend it wisely.
And what happens if our Government gives in unconditionally to the demands of the nurses?
And is that spending OUR money wisely?
I think not.
Let’s think about his. Our health system stinks. For years we have had a situation where people wait for months and months for a diagnosis. For years we have had people waiting on trolleys in Accident and Emergency. For years we have had a dearth of hospital beds, sufficiently qualified consultants and generally a piss-poor service. And yet, for years, billions have been plugged into this ailing system. Why so much money for so little in return? Because, instead of the money going in to make permanent structural changes and improvements, it’s generally been going into the wrong places.
Now we can blame successive governments for this situation and we should, but the problem here has been government weakness, not strength, in trying to manage our money.
There is a process in place to resolve pay disputes and it’s called Benchmarking. Instead of supporting the public unions on the picket lines, the public should be sending the message to them loud and clear that they get involved in the the proper conflict management mechanisms, unless we are happy as a country to slide rapidly into current budget deficits and the curtailment of other important services just so as the public wage bill can be satisfied.
If the nurses want better pay and conditions, fine. However, we should be legitimately asking the question as taxpayers – what do we get as a result? Where is the quid pro quo? Because the money to pay them doesn’t ultimately from the government. It comes from our pay-packets. So, instead of booing the government, we should expect them to negotiate hard on our behalf.
So, if you are on a pension, or unemployed, or are on holidays over here from another part of the world then fire away – you may support the nurses to your heart’s content.
If you are paying taxes here in Ireland though, maybe a moment’s reflection is on the cards.