Talks in Coombe Hospital craft workers’ technology dispute set for WRC

Trade union Connect has argued its members should be entitled to a share of any savings made through the increased use of hand-held devices

Talks regarding a dispute involving craft workers employed at the Coombe Hospital who are seeking payments relating to the use of mobile phones and tablets are to take place on Friday at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

The two sides have accepted an invitation to the meeting, and the six workers involved, who are members of the trade union Connect, are back working normally. The workers, a mix of electricians, plumbers and carpenters, were suspended last Thursday week for failing to co-operate with a roll-out of the technology.

The hospital’s management said it had been seeking to progress beyond the paper-based system of allocating tasks for 18 months, and had repeatedly sought to engage with the staff and their union.

On Monday, a management spokesperson said “the Coombe Hospital welcomed the invitation from the WRC, and is now looking forward to constructive engagement through the talks process on Friday”.


The union said it was pleased its members were back working normally, and that it was happy to attend the talks. Connect general secretary Paddy Kavanagh said the union would be highlighting the fact that the Labour Court had suggested in May 2023, when a similar issue involving workers at St James’s Hospital arose, that the two sides should engage at national level to resolve their differences.

The union has argued its members should be entitled to a share of any savings made through the increased use of hand-held devices. In the St James’s Hospital case management argued there were no savings and the Labour Court suggested it could see nothing in the national public sector pay agreements that provided for any such sharing of benefits.

Connect has argued that local authority craft workers were awarded such payments in similar circumstances, and it is entitled to seek comparable payments for its members in the health sector.

It had threatened to ballot its members in hospitals and other healthcare facilities across the country on industrial action in the event the Coombe pressed ahead with its attempt to introduce the changes.

Mr Kavanagh has said a decision by the sector’s National Joint Council on the issue is expected over the next couple of months.

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Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times