SIPTU seeks urgent meeting with HSE over its use of unsafe sanitiser.

SIPTU representatives have called for an urgent meeting with the management of the HSE following the shocking revelation that patients and staff have, for several months, been using an unsafe hand sanitiser at health facilities across the country.

SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, John King, said: “Our members across the country are very concerned at this shocking development. HSE and other health facilities are risky and dangerous enough for staff and patients coping with Covid 19 without there being health risks associated with the use of a hand sanitising product.

“It is particularly disturbing given the importance placed by public health authorities on effective and regular hand washing as an essential measure in helping to prevent the spread of the virus.

“SIPTU members have been instructed and advised to use the unsafe ViroPro product extensively over the last seven months.

“We are now seeking immediate engagement with the HSE in order to obtain an explanation about the circumstances which led to the procurement and use of a product containing methanol which can cause serious health conditions including dermatitis, eye and upper respiratory system irritation as well as headaches.”

“SIPTU members also need to know what safe and effective alternative sanitiser the health authorities are going to provide and when and how they intend to roll it out across the health system.

14/10/2020 Comments are off SIPTU Health

SIPTU says linking budget funding increases to reform will ensure equitable recovery

SIPTU has called for the increased funding in Budget 2021 to assist the sectors worst hit by the Covid-19 pandemic to be linked to reforms to ensure improved working conditions and an equitable recovery.

SIPTU General Secretary, Joe Cunningham said: “While billions of euro are being spent to shore up the economy, the Government has failed in this budget to signpost its future direction. Short-term cash needs a long-term strategy if it is to be effective and efficient. 

“Additional cash subsidies to businesses and relief for those who depend on the PUP are very welcome. The commitment to halt the pension age increase to 67 is also welcome as is the promised investment in bed capacity and other healthcare initiatives. 

“However, we are in danger of repeating past mistakes. In the last VAT cut for the hospitality sector, profits grew exponentially while wages stagnated. Hospitality employers prospered on the back of state subsidies, low pay and poor working conditions. Subsidies should be linked to the establishment of a sectoral body so that employees and employers together can negotiate the most efficient use of public subsidies.”

SIPTU Economist, Michael Taft, said: “The Government is squandering a massive opportunity to transform the childcare sector. The State is already subsidising most of the expenditure in this sector but fees are still the highest in the EU while workers are some of the lowest paid. For very little extra the state should effectively take over workers’ wages and significantly reduce fees.

“There is a real danger that Budget 2021 will accelerate inequality. The failure to increase social protection, the paltry increase in the minimum wage and the regressive taxation measures that will affect low-income and low-paid workers most is a recipe for rising poverty and inequality.

“Ireland needs a considerable and sustained investment drive to confront the challenges of the pandemic, Brexit and climate change, not just for next year, but for the rest of the decade. The increase of €600 million over previous commitments in the National Development Plan is far less than what is required. The number of new houses arising from this budget looks set to be very small. We need to significantly increase our borrowing for public investment, especially at a time of zero interest rates.”  

He added: “The Government still has time to rectify these issues. It can increase investment, transform the childcare sector and support households out of the Recovery Fund.  

“The Government can also ensure full employee participation on the sectoral taskforces that it will announce in the upcoming National Economic Plan, starting with low-paid sectors.  Such participation will help ensure the best result in terms of recovery and restructuring. We need a democratically accountable recovery.”

09/10/2020 Comments are off SIPTU Health

SIPTU calls for mandatory sick pay scheme to cover full income of ill workers

SIPTU economist, Michael Taft, has called for the introduction of a mandatory sick pay scheme which ensures that workers receive their full income while they are out of work due to illness.

Speaking at a Webinar entitled ‘Healing our Sick Pay System’ and hosted by SIPTU, he said: “A mandatory sick pay scheme must be available for all workers regardless of the sector or company in which they work. Payments from the scheme should cover their full income while they are out sick.”  

Laura Bambrick, social policy officer for ICTU told the Webinar that the Republic of Ireland is one of only four EU countries that does not have a mandatory sick pay scheme.

“In other countries, employers are obliged to provide sick pay at 100 percent of pay for a number of weeks per year to every employee.  In this jurisdiction, there is no legal requirement on employers to provide sick pay.  This situation can force many workers to continue working while sick because they cannot afford to take time off.  This is why ICTU is calling for a mandatory sick pay scheme similar to that which operates in the vast majority of other EU countries.  Recent opinion polls show overwhelming support for this call,’ she said.

Referring to the majority of employees in the private, community and voluntary sectors, Michael Taft added:

“Between 800,000 and one million workers do not have a sick pay scheme in work. This means they are totally reliant on a woefully inadequate Illness Benefit from the Department of Social Protection.  A mandatory sick pay scheme should be largely funded by employers through increased PRSI. Irish levels of employers’ social insurance is less than half the EU average.”

Other speakers at the Webinar included community worker, Lynda Scully and manufacturing worker, John Montgomery, both of whom are members of the SIPTU National Executive Council.

“In the community sector, people who work side-by-side doing the same work can be treated differently when it comes to sick pay, depending on their source of funding.  Some might have sick pay and others might not.  This creates an arbitrary and unfair discrimination,” Lynda Scully said.

“In many manufacturing employments, it can take a week for workers to access the Illness Benefit payment which is very small. This means that workers either come into work while they are sick or they take time off and lose their pay,” John Montgomery told the Webinar.

The speakers welcomed the Government’s stated commitment to introduce a statutory sick pay system next year. However, they warned that opposition from employer groups could result in a watered down sick pay proposal and said that trade union members need to mobilise workers and the wider public to campaign for a new sick pay scheme.

07/10/2020 Comments are off SIPTU Health

Targeted industrial action campaign planned across Section 39 organisations

SIPTU, Fórsa and INMO representatives held an emergency meeting today (Wednesday, 7th October) to agree the next steps in a targeted campaign of industrial action to secure pay justice for thousands of Section 39 workers. 

The meeting was called to discuss correspondence received by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions from Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath TD declining an invitation to intervene in this long-running dispute involving frontline workers providing community, health and disability services. 

SIPTU Public Administration and Community Division Organiser, Adrian Kane, said: “The decision of the Minister to wash his hands of this dispute not only beggars belief but has left a bitter taste in the mouths of our members. These are the very same workers who made sure essential services have been maintained throughout this Covid-19 pandemic. The appetite on the ground for a sustained period of targeted industrial action can no longer be wished away by the Government. Consultation meetings for industrial action in the Cork region will commence immediately beginning with South-Doc and Co-Action. Our members are determined to see this campaign through until the end and secure a fair outcome.”

Concerns were also raised at the meeting that some of the 50 Section 39 organisations involved in the first tranche of pay restoration due on 1st October under an agreement secured by unions in 2019 have cited potential funding challenges and are now claiming an inability to honour the agreement. 

Fórsa official Catherine Keogh said the union had identified a number of Section 39 employments for which the union’s divisional executive has sanctioned a ballot for industrial action. These are:

  • National Council of the Blind 
  • Delta Centre 
  • Moorehaven 
  • Camphill Communities 
  • Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ireland 
  • National Guide Dogs for the Blind 
  • De Paul 
  • Ard Aoibhinn 
  • South Doc
  • Valentia Community Health and Welfare Association 
  • St Joseph’s Home, Killorglin 
  • Western Alzheimer’s 
  • Co Action Ireland

Ms Keogh said union members continued to provide a range of health services to the community throughout the Covid pandemic, but that the Department of Health, the HSE and the Government have effectively turned their backs on these workers. 

“These are workers providing essential services who haven’t had the luxury of turning their backs on their responsibilities. They continue to fight for modest pay restoration measures, already agreed in other Section 39 employments. They deserve a swift and decisive response that shows their work is valued,” she said.

SIPTU Health Industrial Organiser, Damian Ginley said: “A decision was taken by the unions that should employers fail to meet the terms of this agreement then union members across these organisations would be left with no choice but to ballot for industrial action. We are calling on the Government to back up their applause for essential frontline workers, to put their money where their mouth is and provide necessary funding to make sure all Section 39 workers get the pay justice they deserve.”

01/10/2020 Comments are off SIPTU Health

SIPTU representatives demand management urgently addresses concerns of St John of God’s workers

SIPTU representatives have today (Thursday, 1st October) called on the management of St John of God’s and the Health Service Executive (HSE) to immediately address the concerns of union members over jobs and the future provision of its services. 

The call comes following the announcement that the responsibility for the operation of intellectual, disability and mental health services currently provided by St John of God’s will transfer into full state ownership over the next 12 months. 

SIPTU Industrial Organiser, Damian Ginley, said: “The news has caused considerable shock to our members across the country. The timing of this announcement is unfortunate given the enormous efforts and flexibility shown by our members during the pandemic and they are now rightly anxious about what the future may hold. The funding crisis in Section 38 and 39 organisations, like St John of God’s, is nothing new. It represents a broken model and this is simply another consequence of years of neglect and underfunding in the community and voluntary sector.”

He added: “SIPTU representatives are calling on St John of God’s management and the HSE to engage as a matter of urgency to ensure any transitional arrangements and plans take into account the concerns of the workers in the service. It is critical that this meeting happens swiftly to ensure jobs are fully protected and that the essential services provided to over 8,000 children, adolescents and adults across counties Dublin, Kildare, Kerry, Wicklow, Meath and Louth are safeguarded into the future.”

25/09/2020 Comments are off Sonia Slevin

SIPTU representatives demand urgent engagement with HSE over Winter Service Plan

SIPTU representatives have today (Thursday, 24th September) demanded an urgent meeting with the management of the Health Service Executive (HSE) overthe concerns of union members over its ability to deliver on the effective implementation of the Winter Service Plan 2020. 

SIPTU Deputy General Secretary for the Public Service, John King, said: “The Health Service Staff Panel of Trade Unions has written to the HSE seeking an urgent engagement to discuss the significant and justifiable concerns of our members over the effective implementation of the Winter Service Plan 2020. While the publication of this long overdue plan is to be broadly welcomed, we believe that the devil is in the detail and that unnecessary time has been lost by the delay in its publication. Ultimately, the purpose of this engagement will be to nail down how the goals of this plan are going to be realised fairly and effectively.”

He added: “Our members have been working around the clock throughout this pandemic and are coping with ever increasing demands and chronic fatigue. The winter season is now upon us and these essential frontline workers need guarantees that existing staff will be supported through adequate recruitment plans, investment in critical infrastructure, increased capacity levels and thesufficient resources required to keep our health service going through what will be a long and challenging winter for all.”

Read the plan here

18/09/2020 Comments are off SIPTU Health

Sisters of Charity workers continue campaign for a fair redundancy package

Sisters of Charity workers gathering today (Friday, 18th September) for socially distanced protest outside St Monica’s Nursing Home in Dublin have said that their #PayUpSisters campaign will continue until a just and reasonable outcome is achieved.  

At the protest, the workers, who are members of SIPTU, Fórsa and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, expressed their deep dismay that the Sisters of Charity did not turn up to talks yesterday (Thursday, 17th September) at the Workplace Relations Commission and vowed to keep going until an enhanced redundancy package already recommended by the Labour Court is paid.

SIPTU Shop Steward, Liz Meade, said: “The campaign must continue. We will not give up on our struggle for fairness. Some of us took care of countless vulnerable people both in the nursing home and in the day service on behalf of the Sisters of Charity for over 30 years and to be left high and dry like this is an absolute scandal.”

SIPTU Industrial Organiser, Damian Ginley, said: “SIPTU representatives again call on the Sisters of Charity to engage directly with the group of unions in a process that can find a solution acceptable to the workers. The sudden closure of this nursing home along with silence from the Sisters of Charity has left a bitter taste for all members.

These are the same people, some of whom have given their entire working lives to the Sisters, who went above and beyond the call of duty to protect some of the most vulnerable in our society during the Covid-19 pandemic.

For these workers be left out in the cold after years of loyal service is very difficult to accept so our members will continue to fight until justice is achieved.”

03/09/2020 Comments are off SIPTU Health

SIPTU members in St. Vincent’s Centre to transfer employment to COPE Foundation

SIPTU members in the St. Vincent’s Centre in Cork City are to transfer their employment to the COPE Foundation, which will result in improved terms and conditions of work and the maintenance of its vital services for residents. 

SIPTU Organiser, Sharon Cregan, said: “This move will bring to an end a long period of uncertainty for the staff employed at the centre which cares for women with intellectual disabilities. The issue emerged in early 2017 with disagreement between the HSE and Sisters of Charity over who was responsible for the staff when the centre was de-registered. 

“The Section 39 organisation was governed by the Sisters of Charity until the HSE stepped in in March 2017. Within months, HIQA published a report on foot of a visit to the centre which identified major non-compliance issues in key areas. These issues have been resolved and with the agreement which has been reached for COPE Foundation to assume the operations of the service the future of the workforce is also now ensured. 

“Throughout this time the staff maintained continuity of service. The staff have worked with the residents for many years. They know them and wanted to ensure their wellbeing and that they could live as independently as possible.

“We received today (Thursday, 3rd September) correspondence from the HSE inviting both SIPTU and the INMO to meet its representatives on Thursday next, 10th September, to commence discussions and negotiations in relation to the impending transfer. At this meeting union representatives will be ensuring that this transfer of undertakings progresses successfully. 

“The COPE Foundation is a Section 38 organisation. As such it is funded to provide a defined level of service on behalf of the HSE and will provide workers with improved terms and conditions of employment.”

She added: “The transfer of these services to the COPE Foundation is a very welcome development which should ensure the best outcome for the workers and residents of the St Vincent’s Centre.”

01/09/2020 Comments are off SIPTU Health

SIPTU condemns NAS management for failure to pay members’ wages in full

SIPTU representatives have today (Tuesday, 1st September) condemned the National Ambulance Service (NAS) management for failing to pay emergency medical technicians (EMTs) their full wages due to staff shortages in the payroll department. 

SIPTU Ambulance Sector Organiser, Miriam Hamilton, said: “Since the beginning of the pandemic, our members in the NAS have gone above and beyond the call of duty to provide a full emergency service in communities across the country. Our members also took on a substantial amount of additional and crucial roles to swab and test for Covid-19. They have visited people’s homes, residential services, meat factories and established pop up testing facilities in communities to stop the spread of the coronavirus. This is no way to treat these loyal and dedicated workers who have been on the frontline from day one.”

She added: “It is deeply frustrating and of great concern that the NAS management has today advised us that due to staffing shortages in the payroll department emergency medical technicians in Intermediate Care Services will only get basic pay, with no shift pay or overtime. It’s not acceptable. Our members working on the frontline are essentially being financially penalised for the failure of the HSE to recruit vital frontline staff into the service.”

22/08/2020 Comments are off SIPTU Health

SIPTU calls for implementation of nursing home expert panel recommendations

SIPTU representatives have called for the immediate implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of the COVID 19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel if the private sector is to continue to play a role in the delivery of elder care.

SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, John King, said: “SIPTU representatives have long campaigned for better care for all patients and better jobs for all workers in our health service. The recommendations contained in this report must be immediately actioned by the Department of Health and the HSE as they provide a way of ensuring a better outcome for patients and the health workers who provide and deliver these essential services. 

“SIPTU representatives made a detailed submission and contribution to the Expert Panel and it is welcome that many of our recommendations are evident in the final report. The recommendations clearly vindicate our union’s longstanding position on the need for high quality training, education and continuing professional development for all nursing home workers. 

“The reality is, Covid-19 has brutally exposed many of the shortcomings within the private nursing home sector. We believe the Department of Health and the HSE must now move to provide the necessary resources and capacity to make sure the provision of health care for our older people is improved to the appropriate level.”

He added: “SIPTU is now calling for a full review into the pay and conditions of workers in the sector. This review must include trade unions as key stakeholders, and as the representative voice of workers in the sector. Our members believe there cannot be two standards of provision of health care in Ireland. We are calling for the HSE to be charged with the primary responsibility for setting the standards and delivering the training to all nursing home workers.”