Patrick Cole

10/17/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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SIPTU Deputy General Secretary condemns privatisation for Cervical Check scandal

The SIPTU Public Administration and Community Division Biennial Delegate Conference was today (Tuesday, 16th October) told that creeping health service privatisation lay at the root of the Cervical Check scandal, by the union’s Deputy General Secretary, Ethel Buckley.

Addressing the more than 170 delegates gathered in the Imperial Hotel in Cork City, Buckley said that the SIPTU leadership pledged to “continue to fight with all of the might of our union to ensure that vital health services and other public services are publicly funded and operated in the common good”.

Buckley said: “The human tragedy of outsourcing has now been laid bare for all to see with the Cervical Check scandal. Women were yet again let down badly by the State. SIPTU stands in solidarity with these brave women. The bravery and resilience of Vicky Phelan in fighting a High Court battle to uncover the real reason why she had been misdiagnosed – resulting in a fatal delay in her treatment for cervical cancer- revealed the appalling impact of creeping health privatisation.”

She added: “For rather than carry out the analysis of vital smear tests in Ireland, it was decided to send them to a private for-profit company in the US. Only a full investigation will confirm what part this decision played in hundreds of women’s misdiagnoses, but the moral bankruptcy of such decision-making is already crystal clear.

“These ideological decisions are nothing new in the Irish health system which is brutally divided along class lines between a private system and a public system, the failings of which are relentlessly used to frighten people into paying for health insurance.”

In her address, Buckley also said the union was committed to developing local structures to increase its ability to campaign and force change on issues of importance to members. She added that this approach was already being pursued by the SIPTU Big Start Campaign which was focused on “opening up a national conversation about how we care for and educate our youngest citizens as well as how we should treat the workers who provide this essential service to families”.

10/14/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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Vicky Phelan speaking on CervicalCheck, outsourcing and the Scally Report

The human tragedy of outsourcing has now been laid bare for all to see with the CervicalCheck scandal.

Women were yet again let down badly by the State.

CervicalCheck campaigner Vicky Phelan shared her thoughts with us recently on the outsourcing of health services, the findings of the Scally Report and how lessons must be learnt.

10/10/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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Budget fails to tackle housing, health and childcare crises

Responding to the details in Budget 2019, SIPTU economist, Marie Sherlock, described it as a scattergun approach designed to get over the hump of the next election.

“Contrary to what the Government might claim, this was an exercise in populism over prudence.  A truly progressive and prudent budget would have pooled available resources to bring about real change,” Marie Sherlock said. “The lure of tax cuts does little for families improve access to childcare, healthcare and affordable housing, concerns which the Government and its Independent Alliance supporters claim to profess.”

She said the increase in VAT on hotels and restaurants to 13.5% is long overdue and vindicates the long campaign carried out by Congress and SIPTU over several years to end this unfair concession to a profitable sector where many workers are underpaid and exploited.

“The rise in the 9% VAT rate in the hospitality sector is long overdue and is to be welcomed. The increase in profits in the hotel and restaurant industry has far outpaced any increase in wages for employees. We believe that the vast majority of employers will be able to absorb the increase to 13.5%.”

However, she said, putting over €1.5 billion into the Irish Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) for the so-called rainy-day fund – and an additional €500 million per year – ignores the immediate need for large-scale capital investment in social and affordable housing.  This is also an unnecessary and costly duplication.

“The lack of social and affordable housing is the single most urgent crisis facing working people and their families. It is raining already and placing available funds of more than €1.5 billion into the ISIF reflects a lack of urgency in relation to the housing crisis, notwithstanding the monies diverted to affordable housing over the next three years,” she said.

“The overall targets for the delivery of social and affordable homes are disappointing while the increase in direct payments to landlords through the Housing Assistance Programme is another example of placing private ahead of public interests. Re-introducing 100% mortgage interest relief for individual landlords is a further waste of public monies,”she added.

“At a time where the public finances are in the extraordinary position of being almost close to balance and where we have had corporation tax receipts greatly exceeding expectations, now is the time to build resilience within our public services to withstand future downturns. Instead, we have a government forced to use a €1 billion windfall to plug a gap that continues to arise in the health service each year with no medium-term budgetary planning to implement Sláintecare or to deliver affordable childcare supports for parents, educators and providers.”

10/07/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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Don’t believe the hype on Budget day

Despite all the talk of prudence and the need to be cautious, expect to see plenty of banners on Budget day proclaiming the €3.9bn budget for 2019.

The key issue is that there is very little in this Budget – approximately €800m – that has not already been committed.

To put in context, this equates to less than 0.4% of expected output in Ireland in 2019.

Expect to see some small increase in social welfare rates, fuel allowance and the state pension, a small increase in the Affordable Childcare Scheme and some additional boost to housing.

Last July, the Low Pay Commission recommended a pay increase to €9.80 for 2019 so we expect that to feature in the budget speech.

On the tax side, the lifting of the 9% VAT rate of some parts of the hospitality sector will generate income to allow the Government to increase the standard rate threshold from €34,550; the point at which a worker pays the higher tax rate of 40%.

The long-promised process of merging USC and PRSI may well commence and, if not, USC is likely to be further reduced.

Last year’s budget announced income tax changes worth €333m. Expect to see changes costing marginally less in Budget 2019.

Ultimately, the elephant in the room in Budget 2019 is the €900m in fiscal space available, that the Government is choosing not to spend in order to further reduce Ireland’s negligible general government deficit.

In effect, the debate about Budget 2019 pits those who worry about the long-term economic and social impact of failing to invest now versus those whose only focus is the here and now.

For many of us in the trade union movement, we realise the long-term economic and social impact of a range of issues – failing to build a sufficient number of houses and the implications of too little funding of childcare supports on mothers’ wages.

Also, workplace opportunity, pension income and the wider issue of pensions for all if there are not enough women at work.

For those who work in the health service and for all of us who at some stage in our lives or our family’s lives depend on the health service, we realise that the current system of excessive waiting lists and delays in affordable access to GP services imposes a greater long-term cost on the health system.

For the ‘here and now’ brigade, in the face of such uncertainty about Brexit, Trump and future international tax changes, it is logical to maintain a very conservative approach to the public finances.

The Department of Finance and the Fiscal Advisory Council argue that ‘primary’ government spending (not including debt servicing payments) has increased at the same pace as tax revenues since 2015. This is what ‘prudent’ management of the public finances is about – increasing spending at the same rate as tax revenues.

However, the exit of a major multinational in the wake of Brexit, for example, or Trump or international tax changes would dent our corporate tax revenues.

This latter approach is severely short-sighted. This ‘steady state’ economic policy that Minister Donohoe and others promote assumes that, outside of infrastructural provision, our existing levels of public spending are sufficient.

We know that in many sectors it is not. Even more alarming about the ‘steady state’ perspective is that it allows no room to talk about significant increases in future demand.

This is of particular concern with regard to future health demand, pension provision and childcare.

This isn’t a generalised argument to increase funding for all areas of public spending. No, it is about ensuring that we have a funding model in health, in child- care and in other sectors that is sufficient to meet unmet demand.

And we know that structural changes to public service provision cost money. However, we also know from other EU member state health systems, that greatly expanded access to healthcare need not cost a lot more over the long term compared with what Ireland is currently spending.

Over the past 24 months, one of the key recommendations from the EU Commission and the OECD to our Government has been that they need to do more about “social inclusion.”

These recommendations were not motivated by any deep-seated sense of social justice, rather these international organisations have drawn the link between public spending and the long-term prospects of an economy.

It’s high time we cut through all the talk about “prudence” and highlight that the truly prudent and long-term, cost-effective way of managing the public finances is to address these major issues in the areas of housing, childcare and health.

Because when the downturn comes, ní hé lá na gaoithe lá na scolb.

10/04/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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SIPTU Health conference delegates call for new public service talks before mid-2019

Delegates at the SIPTU Health Biennial Conference have voted to endorse a motion calling on the National Executive Council of SIPTU to engage with the Public Services Committee of the ICTU with a view to exploring the possibility of bringing forward the date for the commencement of negotiations on a successor to the Public Service Stability Agreement before mid-2019.

SIPTU NEC member, Broc Delaney, presented the motion to the more than 250 delegates and observers attending the conference today (Thursday, 4th October) in the Páirc Ui Chaoimh Conference Centre in Cork.

He said: “The Government has a responsibility to address issues which impact on the pay of our members. Many of our members are experiencing serious difficulties in paying rent, paying their mortgage, paying the cost of travelling to work, child care costs, the costs of taking care of elderly parents. All of these cost factors are increasing without regard to the ability of workers to pay.”

He added: “SIPTU Health Division in recognition of the value of addressing public service pay and conditions through national agreements is calling on the Public Service Committee of the ICTU to engage with the Government by mid 2019 on a successor to the current Public Service Stability Agreement. This initiative would take into consideration the progress made in the wider economy and the challenges ahead.”

Section 39 Organisation worker, Helen Tobin, said: “I want not only to support this motion but also demand that the Public Service Committee of the ICTU insist that the Government does not in any future PSSA leave us behind and isolated to fight a campaign for pay restoration and pay progression which is rightfully ours.”

10/03/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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SIPTU secures proposals for full pay restoration for Section 39 workers 

SIPTU representatives yesterday, (Tuesday, 2nd October), secured a proposal that has the potential to end the Section 39 pay dispute. The move comes following protracted negotiations with officials from the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Department of Health under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “These proposals have the potential to provide members not only with money in their pocket but a clear plan for Section 39 organisation workers to have their pay restored in a manner which corresponds to their counterparts directly employed by the HSE.”

“Under these proposals, members will receive an additional payment of €1000 in their pay packets from April 2019 which will go a long way to restore pay for thousands of Section 39 workers. Payments will also be made in 2020 and 2021. These proposals ensure that, after a long and hard-fought campaign, our members working in Section 39 organisations will get full pay restoration.”

He added: “SIPTU representatives will recommend the acceptance of these proposals as it is the best vehicle to achieve pay justice for all Section 39 workers. In the coming weeks, the proposals will go to ballot following a full consultation with members.”

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Eddie Mullins, said: “Our members have fought, not only to have their salaries restored, but also to acknowledge a pay link with the public service. During this dispute, our members demonstrated great compassion and responsibility by doing everything in their power to achieve a legitimate objective without affecting on services to vulnerable clients. Our members now have a result and light at the end of the tunnel.

10/03/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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SIPTU secure proposals for full pay restoration for Section 39 workers 

SIPTU representatives have today (Tuesday, 2nd October) secured a proposal that has the potential to end the Section 39 pay dispute. The move comes following protracted negotiations with officials from the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Department of Health under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “These proposals have the potential to provide members not only with money in their pocket but a clear plan for Section 39 organisation workers to have their pay restored in a manner which corresponds to their counterparts directly employed by the HSE.”

“Under these proposals, members will receive an additional payment of €1000 in their pay packets from April 2019 which will go a long way to restore pay for thousands of Section 39 workers. Payments will also be made in 2020 and 2021. These proposals ensure that, after a long and hard-fought campaign, our members working in Section 39 organisations will get full pay restoration.”

He added: “SIPTU representatives will recommend the acceptance of these proposals as it is the best vehicle to achieve pay justice for all Section 39 workers. In the coming weeks, the proposals will go to ballot following a full consultation with members.”

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Eddie Mullins, said: “Our members have fought, not only to have their salaries restored, but also to acknowledge a pay link with the public service. During this dispute, our members demonstrated great compassion and responsibility by doing everything in their power to achieve a legitimate objective without affecting on services to vulnerable clients. Our members now have a result and light at the end of the tunnel.”

09/30/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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Radical political action required to solve housing crisis

Radical political action is required to force the Government to roll out a major, public building programme to deal with the urgent need for social and affordable housing, according to SIPTU General Secretary Joe O’Flynn.

He has called on SIPTU members, their families and friends to join the ‘Raise the Roof’ rally to be held outside Leinster House on Wednesday, 3rd October.

The rally organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the National Homeless and Housing Coalition, the National Womens’ Council and the Union of Students in Ireland is timed to coincide with a Dáil motion on the housing crisis.

The motion calls for the immediate construction of quality, affordable public housing, an end to evictions and the inclusion of the right to housing in the Irish Constitution.

It is supported by opposition parties including Sinn Féin, the Labour Party, People Before Profit/Solidarity, the Social Democrats, the Green Party and Independents4Change.

Trade union members and other campaigners have been lobbying Fianna Fáil deputies and senators over recent months to support the call for a massive, publicly led, social and affordable housing programme.

They will seek to have the party support the motion to be tabled by the other opposition parties.

“It is no exaggeration to say that the housing crisis is damaging the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and their families. As with any crisis it is working people, those on low and average incomes, who suffer the most,” O’Flynn said.

“Buying your own home is now beyond reach for a generation of young people. The shortage of public, social and affordable housing means that tens of thousands are forced into the rental sector. Rents are increasing, as landlords take advantage of the shortfall in supply.”

“Young workers and students find it almost impossible to find decent accommodation at affordable prices, particularly when they work in low paid, precarious employment,” the SIPTU General Secretary told Liberty.

“More and more families are forced into homelessness because rents are too high or because they cannot meet their mortgage repayments due to financial difficulty. They are then forced into unsuitable accommodation in hotels or emergency hubs. A generation of children will grow up without knowing what a normal home is like.”

“It is important that we come out in large numbers to support this call for immediate action that puts the public interest ahead of those who are profiting from the lack of social and affordable housing which makes life a misery for so many families across the country,” he said.

The SIPTU Dublin District Council is co-ordinating the union’s participation in the rally. It is calling on all members to stand with the union flag on 3rd October.

09/28/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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SIPTU calls for action to safeguard the operations of Bray Home Care Services

SIPTU has called for immediate action from the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, concerning the operation of Bray Home Care Services following a decision by the company to issue staff with a 30-day protective notice of redundancy.

SIPTU Health Organiser, John Hubbard, said: “Bray Home Care Services currently employs 54 staff and assists 267 clients. They have been providing care services for vulnerable people for nearly 40 years so this news is deeply troubling for the entire community.

“The first issue that must be dealt with by the HSE and the Minister for Health is to move rapidly to reassure those directly affected that their futures will be secure, in terms of services and employment.

“This situation brings into sharp focus the wider issues of what competitive tendering and the associated race to the bottom in service provision is doing to our care services. It is leaving workers in precarious situations where they are unable to plan for their futures and leaving vulnerable clients in fear for their services and feeling a deep sense of insecurity. This is exactly the opposite of what we need from our home care system.”

He added: “SIPTU representatives are demanding immediate action by Simon Harris and the HSE to bring this unacceptable situation to an end. There must be no delay in the HSE stepping in and directly administering these care services and securing our members employment. It is unacceptable that funding issues are being placed before the care of the elderly in their homes.

“This is further evidence of the failure of the Government and the HSE to restore cuts that were made to the service in the recession years and to properly fund Section 39 organisations.”