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.

SIPTU supports agreement to increase nursing resources at UL Hospital Group

SIPTU supports an agreement between health unions and management, facilitated by the Labour Relations Commission (LRC), to significantly increase nursing resources to the University of Limerick (UL) Hospital Group.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Tony Kenny said: “SIPTU are pleased with the outcome of the negotiations at the LRC and will now work to ensure the recruitment of the new posts happens as soon as possible. This is essential in order to effectively combat the overcrowding crisis in the hospital network in the Mid West.”

He added: “We believe that the recruitment of 70 additional nursing posts in Limerick, Ennis, Nenagh and Croom by the end of May 2015 will go some way towards improving the quality of care for patients at these facilities. It will provide some much needed relief for our members who are working under severe pressure day in and day out.

“In addition to this very positive outcome for patients and workers, SIPTU has successfully fought with other unions to ensure that there will be an independently chaired industrial relations process that will focus on Emergency Department overcrowding in University of Limerick Hospital, Dooradoyle. This hospital has long suffered from severe overcrowding.”

SIPTU supports move to ensure Home Helps have at least 30 minutes with clients

SIPTU supports a decision of the Emergency Department Taskforce to ensure Home Helps have a minimum of 30 minutes with each client in which essential care can be provided.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “The SIPTU Home Helps campaign for additional hours and the full utilisation of their existing contracted hours has succeded in securing this key improvement for clients.

“This move will allow hospitals to successfully discharge more patients, assured that they will be provided with a proper standard of care in the community. If this decision had been made prior to Christmas it would have reduced the impact of overcrowding in our hospital network.”

Paul Bell also called for further action to end the practice by some private nursing home operators of  “cherry-picking” patients for accommodation and requesting additional fees for admission.

He said: “This issue has developed due to successive governments failing to invest in public nursing home faculties. This has allowed private sector providers to gain a monopoly position which some are now abusing by selecting patients and levying addition charges.”

The decision to allow Home Helps a minimum of 30 minutes with patients was made at a meeting of the Emergency Department Taskforce in Dr. Steeven’s Hospital, Dublin, this afternoon (2nd February).

The taskforce comprises relevant stakeholders including senior doctors, lead hospital consultants, HSE National Directors, union representatives and senior officials from the HSE Acute Hospitals Directorate and the Department of Health.

Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, convened the Taskforce on 22nd December 2014, to find long-term solutions to the issue of hospital overcrowding.

SIPTU calls for increase in Home Help services at Dáil hospital crisis protest

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, told over 100 health workers protesting outside Leinster House this afternoon (Wednesday, 14th January) that an immediate increase in Home Help services is critical to solving the overcrowding crisis in our hospitals.

Addressing the protest, organised by unions calling for government action to end the overcrowding crisis in hospital emergency departments, Paul Bell, said: “A lack of available hospital beds is a crucial factor in this worsening crisis. However, there are currently 800 patients waiting to be discharged from hospitals across the State.

“While many of these patients will need nursing home care, many more can and should be enabled to return to their own homes where they can be supported through HSE Home Help services. We have thousands of SIPTU members working as Home Helps who are ready, willing and able to provide the necessary supports to facilitate such a process.”

He added: “The crisis in our hospitals is integrally linked to the running down of health services within our communities. Nearly three million hours have been cut from Home Help services since 2008, with cutbacks only coming to a halt after a concerted campaign by our union.

Watch video of protest here

SIPTU calls for increased funding for Home Care service to help ease hospitals crisis

SIPTU has called on the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, to immediately increase funding to HSE Home Care services in order to tackle the issue of delayed discharge and overcrowding of patients across the public hospital network.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “There are currently 800 patients waiting to be discharged from hospitals across the State. While many of these will need nursing home care, many more can and should be enabled to return to their own homes where they can be supported through HSE Home Care services. We have thousands of SIPTU members working as Home Helps who are ready, willing and able to provide the necessary supports to facilitate such a process.

“However, over 2 million hours have been cut from Home Care services since 2008, with cutbacks only coming to a halt after a concerted campaign by our union. One legacy of these cuts is that patients who could be supported at home are now more likely to remain in hospital care. At the same time underemployment is now a common feature throughout the Home Care workforce”.

A SIPTU survey has revealed that nearly 7 out of 10 Home Care workers currently have less than 20 hours work per week. The same survey also indicates that 4 out of 5 such workers are seeking additional hours of work. This means in many cases a home care service could be provided for hospital patients enabling many of them to return to live in their own homes under a tailored care plan.

Paul Bell added: “The minister needs to act now to restore funding and hours to this critical service as a key measure to address the ongoing hospital crisis. A comprehensive Government response which addresses the issues of understaffing in our hospitals, and the restoration of hospital beds remains central to any long-term solution to the current crisis. However, provision of adequate funding for HSE Home Care services is one important measure that could quickly assist in alleviating the current situation.”