SIPTU members call for pay restoration at rally outside Department of Health

SIPTU Health Division members called on the Government to honour its commitment to restore their pay in line with national agreements at a rally today (Thursday, 30th April) outside the Department of Health, Dublin 2.

At the rally, frontline health workers and support staff heard speeches stating that because workers had fulfilled their commitments under the Haddington Road Agreement it was now time for the Government to meet its obligation to resort their pay.

Addressing the rally, SIPTU General President, Jack O’Connor, called for the restoration workers’ pay and dismissed what he described as “myths about the public sector”.

“One myth,” he said, “is that there is some kind of conflict between the people who work in the public service and the interests of the citizens who utilise them.

“There is no conflict, we all share an interest in winning the battle for a good public services, for a good public health service.”

Roisin Quinn, a health care assistant and SIPTU activist, said: “SIPTU is in a battle now to make our jobs more sustainable that will support the long term interest of the people we care about and care for.”

Concluding the rally, SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, called for the Government to live up to its commitments by initially restoring the earnings of lower paid workers.

He said: “Looking to the future we believe that the Government working with SIPTU have an opportunity to commence a journey which will see the closing of the gap between low to middle income earners and those at the top.

“This position is not just about pay and economics its about our society going forward.”

Low paid workers must be focus of pay talks

Pay talks for health workers must focus on the low paid and cannot be linked to demands for further improvements in productivity was the message from the ‘Ending the Emergency – SIPTU Health Division Conference’, held in the Mansion House Dublin on Thursday, 23rd April.

Addressing delegates at the conference SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “Looking to the future we believe that the Government working with SIPTU have an opportunity to commence a journey which will see the closing of the gap between low to middle income earners and those at the top.

“This position is not just about pay and economics its about our society going forward.”

Bell was responding to an earlier address by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, in which he stated that talks between public sector unions and the Government, which are expected to begin in May, “in the first instance will concentrate on ensuring the lower paid public servant benefits proportionately better.”

In her presentation to the conference SIPTU national Campaigns and Equality Organiser, Ethel Buckley, outlined the union’s plans for and the progress that has been made on the site so far. was launched in October 2014 in response to members demand for their own dedicated communications platform. In only seven months we have had 89,000 visits to the website. We put out a 100-day user survey recently to members to get their feedback on what we can do to improve the content and layout of the site. Members feedback is being actioned and we are very encouraged by their contribution.”

She also said that members would be kept informed of development during the upcoming talks process with the government through a phone bank system, which was currently being developed as part of the union’s campaign in support of the marriage equality referendum on Twitter and SIPTU Health Plus.

Other issues that were focused upon at the conference were ensuring, that the 1,300 health workers in support services on Intern contracts are made permanent.

There were also calls for the practice of issuing zero hours contracts for those working in community sector home care services to be ended along with the outsourcing of support service positions to for profit private companies.

Among the other speakers at the conference were Orlagh Fawl of the SIPTU Strategic Organising Department, Dr. Thomas Stephen, a health policy expert based at Trinity College Dublin and Dr. Micheál Collins of the Nevin Economic Research Institute.

For videos of the conference click on the text below. 

SIPTU secures additional funding for patient care at University Hospital Galway

SIPTU has deferred notice of industrial action at University Hospital Galway (UHG), Galway city, pending implementation of an agreement for the facility to secure additional nurses and support staff cover.

SIPTU Organiser Mark Lohan said: “This decision, following Labour Relations Commission facilitated talks between union representatives and the hospital management, vindicates our position that having so many patients on trolleys, both in the Emergency Department and on the wards, is totally unacceptable.

“SIPTU nurses and their colleagues in the Emergency Department of UHG have strongly and consistently highlighted the need for adequate staffing levels. Their reasonable requests to management concerning this issue were ignored to such an extent that they were left with no choice but to vote for industrial action.”

He added: “It was only then that management engaged in a meaningful manner and found the funding to adequately resource the Emergency Department with extra front line staff.

“The Emergency Department is still under significant pressure but in taking this stand, and getting this commitment from management, SIPTU members in UHG have played a vital role in protecting patient safety for all the residents of the west of Ireland that need to use our public hospital.”

SIPTU UHG shop steward, Ann Burke, said: “SIPTU members have got this result because they made the collective decision to stand up for patients.

“We had the courage to take a stand for what we knew to be right and have now been successful in improving our workplace and protecting our patients.”

SIPTU calls for clinical review of new psychiatric unit on CUH campus

SIPTU has called for a full clinical review by an agreed independent expert to examine and validate proposals for the operation of a new psychiatric unit on the campus of Cork University Hospital, Cork City.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “This review should be conducted as a matter of extreme urgency in order to allay concerns that the public may have about the standard of care for vulnerable patients which will be provided in this unit.

“Our members are committed to the delivery of the highest care standards for service users in what is a badly needed new psychiatric care unit.

“Industrial relations issues related to this new unit will be discussed by all parties, under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, at a meeting scheduled for later this month in Dublin. However, the concerns of some of our members which are of a clinical nature require a review conducted by an independent expert in the field of psychiatric care.”

He added: “We believe that the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, should embrace this suggestion in an effort to ensure that this badly needed unit is opened without further delay.”

SIPTU seeks Government action to end zero-hour contracts for home care workers

SIPTU has demanded urgent action by the Government to end the imposition of zero-hour contracts on home care workers in voluntary sector organisations which are funded by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to provide public health care schemes.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “It has come to the attention of SIPTU that a number of voluntary sector organisations providing public home care services are employing staff on zero-hour contracts.

“In recent weeks we have engaged with the HSE on this issue. It is apparent that the HSE is aware that vulnerable workers are being exploited by the imposition of zero-hour contracts. In recent months it has requested that the thirty two community and voluntary sector organisations, which it funds to provide home care services, confirm the number of employees on their books and the number of hours of service being provided to service users in their area.”

Paul Bell added: “SIPTU has challenged the HSE on its failure to ensure that basic employment standards are part of any tender for the provision of publicly funded services. We have also directly contacted the Minister for State with responsibility for the elderly and disabled, Kathleen Lynch, and Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Ged Nash, seeking information on how this situation has been allowed to go unchecked for several years.

“The Government must put its own house in order in relation to zero-hour contracts. Immediate action is needed to produce legislation aimed at eliminating this employment practice which subjugates and impoverishes vulnerable workers. This situation has entrapped hundreds of mainly women workers who are providing community health services on a third party contracted basis. Many find themselves ineligible for social welfare payments or Family Income Supplement even though they cannot secure the necessary number of working hours to support themselves and their families.”

Approximately 3,500 home helps work for community and voluntary sector organisations which are fully funded by the HSE. It is estimated that up to a third of these workers are employed on a zero-hour contract basis. That’s no way to live. Home helps directly employed by the HSE benefit from a binding Labour Court recommendation which guarantees a basic nine hour working week.

Health Minister addresses SIPTU conference for health care assistants

SIPTU has launched a new Health Care Sector at a conference in Dublin which was addressed by the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar today.

Sector Organiser Marie Butler said that the new sector for health care assistants has been set up in response to the growing demand for representation for this group of ‘hands on’ health workers. She also set out a list of proposals that would lead to the professionalisation of the ‘Health Care Assistant’ across the Irish health service.

“We recognise that Health Care Assistants in hospital, care and community settings are crucial to the future delivery of health services in Ireland and we welcome the Minister’s keen interest in this area. Today moves our members one step closer on our journey towards full recognition as a group of health professionals.”

Speaking at the conference, Mr Varadkar said the role of health care assistant has become increasingly important, as nursing and midwifery has become more specialised.

“Health care assistants play an important role in delivering the highest standard of care, under the direction and supervision of Nursing and Midwifery staff.  This has helped to improve services to patients, and has allowed us to better utilise the skills of nurses and midwives.”

 SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Paul Bell, said that the Minister has been very receptive towards the future role of the health care assistants.

“In order for Health Care Assistants to be a position to respond to the future demands it will be necessary to first of all professionalise these front line health workers. These workers are the only group to provide ‘hands on’ patient care who not to be registered by a regulatory body.

It will also be necessary for Government to commit to on-going training and education of health care assistants and those who wish to seek careers in this area of health provision. These considerations are already subject to two separate European studies, including on by the European Commission.”

Ann Marie Tibby, SIPTU Shop Steward and Chairperson of the Health Care Assistant Committee said without SIPTU empowering health care assistants over the last ten years this day would not have been possible.

“It has been a long journey to get this far. SIPTU had the vision to invest in education and training for health care assistants and now we are confident to take on the next challenge of winning recognition for the vital role we provide in our hospitals and communities.”

SIPTU workers in the Central Mental Hospital secure €2 million compensation

SIPTU members working in the Central Mental Hospital, Dublin, have secured a compensation package valued at over €2 million resulting from a management re-configuration of hospital services that led to an erosion of workers’ terms and conditions.

SIPTU Organiser, David Field, said: “Protracted negotiations between union representatives and management failed to deliver an acceptable result for our members so this case was brought to the Labour Court. It has issued a binding recommendation that up to 100 of our members affected must be compensated by over €2 million in total.”

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said the Labour Court recommendation is a vindication of the union’s position concerning the right of workers for full compensation when their terms and conditions are altered by management. 

He added: “This Labour Court recommendation not only vindicates the determination of our members to achieve a fair and just outcome but it also, once and for all, clarifies that the employer, in this case the HSE, has no right to select which elements of loss in terms of workers’ terms and conditions it will compensate for when it instigates changes. This is a fundamental issue for all unions who are bound by the Haddington Road public service agreement.

“Our members should now be paid the compensation owed to them without delay.”

SIPTU shop steward, Luke Quirke, said: “The decision by management to compensate for only selected losses of income was a step too far for workers. We are delighted with the decision of the Labour Court to compensate workers for their full losses of earnings.”

He added: “SIPTU members fought this case for adequate compensation because workers have made significant sacrifices, both individually and collectively, since the beginning of the economic downturn. Our job is to improve services and the quality of life for some of Ireland’s most vulnerable citizens. This victory reminds us that in order to provide better health care to patients we need to fight for better jobs for health workers”.

SIPTU warn Haddington Road deal breached on outsourcing

SIPTU has criticized the HSE over their unilateral decision to outsource all support services in Mount Carmel Hospital, South Dublin.

SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser Paul Bell said: “This decision is a clear and unambiguous breach of the Public Service Agreement. The HSE have never at any time spoke to this Union who represents these grades which they are obliged to under the service delivery clause in the agreement.

Bell told that he intends to confront this decision and has not ruled out industrial action. “I have already put the HSE on notice last week in a formal letter to Corporate Employee Relations of our members deep concern in this regard and it will be brought up on this weeks agenda of the Health Service Oversight Body.”

“We are conscious of the zealousness of certain interests within both the Department of Health and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform demonstrating an anxiety to outsource as many of our members jobs as possible. This attitude is not acceptable and is most unhelpful with Government having confirmed that the staff recruitment embargo has been lifted and that the “emergency’ is now over with confirmation of pay talks in April or May,” Bell concluded.

Unions win campaign to reverse NMBI fee increase

SIPTU members support the decision of the Nurses and Midwives Board of Ireland (NMBI) to end its attempt to increase its annual retention fee, for nurses and midwives, by 50% for 2015.

Sector Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “This decision by NMBI comes after many months of campaigning by SIPTU, INMO and the PNA members calling on the Board to reverse its decision to increase its retention fee from €100 to €150. It is a victory for nurses and midwives across the country.

“Our members from across the health service have been united on this issue from the start. This victory is a testament to their solidarity and determination to see the campaign through until the end. Our members have had to do more work for less pay over the last number years, they decided that this additional tax on their work was a step too far.

“The campaign against this attempted fee hike has ensured that their regulatory body will treat them fairly and not subject them to increased charges in addition to the pay cuts they have endured in recent years.”

SIPTU Nurses and Midwives Sector Chairperson, Rebecca Donoghue, said: “I thank all SIPTU members for the support they have shown to our nurses and midwives across the country.

“We could not have won this campaign without the support and efforts of our colleagues. The €100 fee is a just fee as it retains the link with the fee paid by other health professionals to their regulatory body.”

Nurses & Midwives To Hold Further Lunchtime Protests Against NMBI Fee Increase

Nurses and midwives, members of SIPTU, INMO and the PNA, will hold further lunchtime protests, in locations across the country, today, Monday, March 2, against the proposed 50% increase in the annual retention fee being sought by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI)

Sector Organiser Kevin Figgis said: “Members will hold lunchtime protests, which will not affect any services, in locations across the country including Dublin, Cork, Sligo and Drogheda. The NMBI Board is scheduled to meet, in special session, on this Tuesday, March 3, to consider a proposal to amend the fee having sought to impose this increased fee, without any prior consultation, since January 1, following a 12% increase in the fee imposed in 2014.

The campaign of opposition which has seen tens of thousands of nurses/midwives not paying the increase continues to gather momentum despite repeated efforts, by NMBI, to intimidate nurses and midwives to pay this unprecedented fee increase. This intimidation has taken the form of notices saying nurses and midwives cannot work if they are not on the register. In response, the three nursing unions have pointed out that the health service cannot work without nurses and midwives.

The campaign will continue until the NMBI reverses its decision and restores the previous €100 fee which is the same paid by other health professionals.”