04/14/2018 Comments are off SIPTU
Share:

SIPTU tells HSE to complete Section 39 audit or strike notice will be reactivated

SIPTU representatives have today (Friday, 13th April) informed the management of the HSE that if it has not completed an audit of Section 39 organisations by May Day (Tuesday, 1st May) union members will reactivate a notice for strike action.

The move follows a meeting, chaired by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, where representatives agreed to an HSE request to allow their officials two additional weeks to complete the audit of Section 39 organisations.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “Having received a partial audit of Section 39 organisations, which had been due to be completed by 31st March, we have taken the decision to accede to a request by the HSE to extend the time agreed to complete this critical work.

“We have also alerted the Workplace Relations Commission, the HSE and the Department of Health that we are insisting that all the parties to the dispute re-engage on May Day.”

He added: “We have informed the employer that if this vital audit is not completed, to our members’ complete satisfaction, by May Day, it will face the reactivation of their notice for strike action.”

 

Public Sector Pay: Where are we now?

The speech below is from Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Pascal Donohue. He was speaking at the IRN Conference in Dublin on Thursday 9th March on “industrial relations in a time of heightened expectations’

I find the theme of this year’s event — ‘Where are we now? Industrial relations in a time of heightened expectations’ — both apt and timely in the current context. But before getting into that in more detail, I’d like to ask you all to take a minute to reflect on where we are coming from.

This country has come through a deep crisis over the last decade — but it has done so in a climate of widespread industrial relations peace across its public service.

To my mind this is a huge achievement — especially when we see the unrest that other countries have endured — and one that probably doesn’t get enough credit.

There is little doubt that industrial peace during those difficult years contributed in a very tangible way to restoring Ireland’s international reputation and creating the conditions for economic recovery to take root and for jobs to return.

It is easy to take this for granted and we should take care not to do so. It took a huge investment of time and effort by all concerned to deliver and sustain industrial peace during this challenging period.

This deserves to be acknowledged.

Three collective agreements have provided the framework for that to be achieved — the Croke Park Agreement, the Haddington Road Agreement and the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

Together these agreements have enabled the delivery of an ambitious agenda of public service reform, together with significant savings and efficiencies in the public service pay bill.

Ensuring that both formal and informal lines of communication between the parties were fully utilised was critical during these very difficult times, as well as proactively using the dispute resolution mechanisms provided for within the agreements to overcome problems as they arose.

More recently, for example, we have re-invigorated the oversight structures under the Lansdowne Road Agreement and this has helped us to respond effectively to the challenges faced in recent months.

THE CASE FOR COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT

As I speak to you today, we are preparing the ground for negotiations on a further collective agreement. So a valid question to ask at this juncture is: Do we need a new agreement? I believe we do.

Why? Because a collective agreement encompassing as many parties as possible is the surest way to guarantee a stable and fair industrial relations environment into the future.

More broadly speaking though, an agreement and the stability it brings is, I believe, important for successfully managing a small, open economy such as Ireland’s which has a high level of external economic challenge: it furthermore provides clarity and certainty around the management of the Exchequer pay bill which accounts for over a third of all public expenditure.

Industrial relations stability also helps Ireland to continue to attract foreign direct investment, delivering much needed employment.

I think you will agree that stability is essential in a time of such global flux and uncertainty as we now face.

An agreement is positive too for those workers within that agreement. Remember, a natural response to the fiscal crisis we faced might have been compulsory redundancies, but we didn’t go down that road.

Sacrifices were undoubtedly made, but through the various collective agreements, we made every effort to minimise the burden of pay cuts on the lower paid and to prioritise these groups in the restoration of pay.

What the agreements give to public servants is a fair deal and a level playing field.

They ensure no lay-offs but they also ensure no leap-frogging.

For me, the inherent fairness of this approach is really important. We shouldn’t set public pay based on a reactive response to those who shout loudest or who are better placed to exert influence.

We have to ensure an equitable approach that considers all of our public servants on equal merit.

An inclusive collective approach is the best way to do that in my view.

Step outside of that framework and you are stepping into an “I win — you lose” negative and perverse type of situation in which there will inevitably be more losers than winners.

And one group guaranteed to be losers in that ‘win — lose’ scenario is the public who cannot afford to be used as pawns in this way.

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS

To return to the theme of the conference — we are at a time of heightened expectations. Of that there is no doubt.

In many ways though, this is a by-product of a growing economy that is emerging from a difficult period.

So, in that sense, rising expectations are an indicator of success — it shows that people generally are confident that things are moving in the right direction.

However, we need to temper these expectations or we will end up right back where we began.

We have to ensure that the huge sacrifices of our citizens, including the public servants who have worked longer hours for less money, are not lost.

Thanks to prudent planning, we are in the relatively better position of having escaped the fate of many of our neighbours in Europe: we are a country in recovery, with steadily declining unemployment and steadily rising economic growth.

With recovery taking hold, it would be unforgivable, therefore, to seek to return to the type of decision-making which necessitated the very difficult sacrifices in the first place.

Nor is it realistic to think that we can meet every present demand or every past grievance that surfaces.

If we want to see the end of financial emergency legislation for good, then we can’t make reckless fiscal choices.

I believe a collective agreement encompassing public service pay and further reform will be key to ensuring that we grow expenditure and pay in an affordable and sustainable strategic way.

It will allow Government to strike a balance between affordable pay increases for public servants and other social priorities including improvements in housing and health care.

An agreement can also ensure that we continue to deliver further public service reform and service improvements for citizens.

I have made the case for a collective agreement, but I would like to sound a note of realism about what is possible from a fiscal perspective.

And here I am very anxious to avoid any suggestion that I may be commencing the negotiations process in public — which is a matter for a later time.

But nevertheless, there are fiscal realities and constraints within which we as Government must operate and I would like these to be better understood — which is not easy given their complexity!

In simple terms, even if we didn’t have obligations under the EU fiscal rules, there would be an onus on us to manage our pay policy in a disciplined and prudent fashion.

The current rules mean, however, that notwithstanding heightened expectations and strong economic growth, resources remain significantly constrained over the medium-term.

We are still running a deficit for example — in 2016 we were still borrowing close to €7m a day to fund the delivery of public services. And we are still working to meet our Medium Term Objective under the Fiscal Rules by 2018 which, if achieved, may provide Government with more latitude in future years.

So constrained resources mean difficult choices have to be made.

A growing but ageing population means we face increased demand for public services, whether in health, education or social protection.

Investment has to be made in these services to meet this demand, as well as in other areas where pressures are emerging as a result of a growing economy — childcare, housing and infrastructure for example.

In a public service context, our frontline services are under immense pressure, with staffing levels still in the process of being consolidated.

Government recognises this and is working to address these pressures by investing in the recruitment of additional front-line staff.

Increasing staff numbers, however important and worthwhile, add to the costs of the Exchequer pay bill.

As do pay improvements for public servants which is a sign of a normal functioning efficient economy and rightly aspired to by all interests concerned.

So a balance has to be struck here between these two important levers if we are to maintain control and stability over expenditure in the coming years and comply with our fiscal obligations.

PRODUCTIVITY AND REFORM

This speaks to the need to focus on further productivity and efficiency improvements in our public service in the years ahead.

I have mentioned the significant programme of savings and reform that were achieved under both the Croke Park and Haddington Road Agreements.

These savings and reforms have allowed us to legitimately say that we were ‘doing more with less’.

They have also contributed in no small measure to ensuring that the normal pay increase expectations on the part of public servants and their representatives can be realised both now and into the future.

The reform and productivity measures in the previous agreements have delivered — and continue to deliver — real results in terms of supporting the delivery of front-line services on which all of our citizens depend to varying degrees — at a time when public expenditure was reduced.

Some examples of what I’m referring to include:

The additional hours secured under the Haddington Road Agreement, which remain critical to enabling us to meet increased demand in front-line service areas and to improve services to the public generally.

The establishment of streamlined shared service operations across the public service, such as SUSI in the education sector and the National Shared Service Office.

Consolidation and re-organisation to deliver efficiencies involving the merger of agencies and creation of streamlined structures, such as the Education Training Boards and in local government.

Moving more services online, including motor tax and Revenue’s myAccount for example.

Developing integrated one-stop shop solutions for the public, such as the INTREO office network in the Department of Social Protection.

Reform is also about improving the work environment for public servants through initiatives aimed at improving our approach to learning and development and facilitating opportunities for greater mobility.

You may think the urgency has passed in relation to all of that but let me assure you it hasn’t.

Because the only way we can respond to both the increased demands on our public services and the expectations of public servants to see their pay start to grow again — within the limited room for manoeuvre we have on the public finances — is to look again at how we can further improve on productivity and efficiency gains in the public service.

This means building on the structural reforms and work practices changes introduced under previous agreements.

My Department are now in the process of drawing up a new three-year Public Service Reform Plan which will set out our vision for the next wave of reform.

We will be looking to consolidate the good progress made to date and to set out the further steps that need to be taken to realise our goals around ensuring we deliver top quality public services in a cost effective way.

Of course, public servants are taxpayers and citizens too — something often conveniently forgotten by those seeking to foster division — and will make their own minds up on how the available fiscal space should be allocated across pay, staffing, tax reductions, childcare, housing, health and other priority areas.

MOVING FORWARD

There is perhaps a feeling in the air — given developments over the last year — that we can’t continue as we have or that collective agreements in the public service have had their day. I disagree.

This is an incredibly short-sighted way of looking at things. It is effectively refusing to make choices that are necessary for the greater common good. That approach — if universally applied — would be very destructive and counter-productive.

Everyone ultimately loses in this scenario.

For all of the reasons I have outlined — not least the need for inherent fairness and balance — a collective approach is as important as ever.

We can — and must — continue to do the hard work together to maintain industrial peace, with all the benefits that brings to our public servants, our economy and our society.

And we must also collectively continue to try to balance competing priorities with an awareness of their implications elsewhere.

Those who seek to prioritise their own narrow agenda over a wider settlement are shirking this broader responsibility toward fairness and balance. These same people will criticise any agreement as a ‘sell-out’, rather than recognising that one can be pragmatic and remain principled. We simply cannot afford to listen to such people.

Before we begin negotiations, we await the report of the Public Service Pay Commission.

This report, due soon, will provide a key input to the talks process by providing evidence-based objective analysis on a number of key issues, including how the unwinding of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest — or FEMPI — legislation should proceed, as well as for example, the issue of the value attached to public service pensions.

The process of moving to a post-FEMPI world commenced under the Lansdowne Road Agreement and will be further advanced under any new agreement.

This is an important development because it signals a normalisation in our approach to both pay and industrial relations in the public service and is an indicator in itself of our re-emergence as a normal functioning economy.

For me, the priorities are simple — we need an agreement that is affordable, sustainable and fair.

However, the very real fiscal limitations we face, coupled with the many competing demands, including on pay as I’ve outlined, when set against the expectation levels that are prevailing, make these forthcoming negotiations arguably one of the most challenging.

CONCLUSION

It will not be easy to secure an agreement in such circumstances. I recognise that. I do not underestimate the challenge.

But let me conclude by saying that the Government is clear that it wants to reach an agreement and will put its best foot forward in an attempt to do so.

Pragmatism, realism and compromise will certainly be required on all sides.

If our experience with Croke Park, Haddington Road and Lansdowne Road is anything to go by though, I know there will be no shortage of these qualities on offer over the coming weeks and that should give us the confidence to collectively succeed in achieving a mutually acceptable outcome.

SIPTU confirms strike action by health service support workers is averted

SIPTU representatives have today (Friday, 24th February) confirmed that strike action by up to 10,000 support workers in the health service has been averted. This follows an agreement with the HSE concerning a dispute which centred on job evaluation, incremental credit for support staff interns and concessions for emergency department staff.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “We have made significant progress on the issue of job evaluation and this process will commence immediately. With regard to the issue of incremental credit for support staff interns it has been agreed that this matter will be considered in the context of the forthcoming public sector pay negotiations.”

Bell added that the remaining issue of concessions for emergency department workers will return to the Labour Court. He said: “Disappointingly, we were unable to make sufficient progress in our negotiations to secure the concessions granted to nursing staff, assigned to emergency departments in acute hospitals throughout the state, in January 2015 were extended to all other health workers committed to working in the same tough environment.

“However, I believe that the decision to have this element of our dispute referred to the Labour Court for binding arbitration is the best way forward for all stakeholders, which includes the public who would have been unavoidably disrupted by the proposed strike action.

SIPTU members working as support staff vote for strike action in selected hospitals

SIPTU members employed as health service support staff have voted by 94% to 6% in favour of taking strike action in selected hospitals from Tuesday, 7th March, in a dispute concerning breaches of the national public service agreements and their exclusion from concessions provided to other emergency department workers.

The ballot of the over 10,000 SIPTU members employed as health service support staff was counted today (Monday, 13th February).

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell said: “The response from our members is clear and emphatic. The size of the vote in favour of strike action undoubtedly demonstrates our members’ anger with the Health Service Executive and Department of Health due to their failure to give them the fair and equal treatment they demand.

“These issues include a failure by management to adhere to the fully binding provisions of the Lansdowne Road Agreement and Haddington Road Agreement. The most crucial elements that have not been adhered to include the reintroduction of a job evaluation scheme and the application of incremental credit to interns.

“The other central issue in this dispute involves the granting of concessions by the HSE and the Department of Health to nurses working in emergency departments which have not been extended to other workers.”

He added: “It has never been our members’ desire to engage in strike action, which will obviously put additional pressures on the health service. However, after fifteen months of management obstruction and intransigence, our members have been left with no option but to commence strike action. This will begin with full the withdrawal of labour, for a number of hours per day, on 7th March.”

The all-out strike involving over 10,000 health support staff workers will initially take place in 39 acute hospital facilities across the country.

 Paul Bell said: “This strategy is our members’ preferred option to reduce the impact on the public. We have three weeks to the expiry date of the strike notice so there remains ample opportunity for the issues in dispute to be resolved. However, for this to occur there need to be a change in attitude and approach of management.”

The following is a list of the hospitals where SIPTU support staff members voted in favour of strike action:

  • Connolly Hospital, Dublin
  • Central Mental Hospital, Dublin
  • Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, Dublin
  • Coombe Women’s and Infants University Hospital, Dublin
  • National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dublin
  • Royal Hospital, Donnybrook, Dublin
  • Incorporated Orthopaedic Hospital of Ireland, Dublin
  • Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital, Dublin
  • Central Remedial Clinic, Dublin
  • Killarney Community Hospital, Kerry  
  • Tallaght Hospital, Dublin
  • Beaumont Hospital, Dublin
  • James’ Hospital, Dublin
  • Mater Hospital, Dublin
  • St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin
  • Cavan General Hospital, Cavan
  • Mullingar General Hospital, Westmeath
  • Portlaoise General Hospital, Laois
  • Dublin Dental Hospital, Dublin
  • Our Lady’s Hospice and Care Services, Dublin
  • South Tipperary General Hospital, Tipperary
  • St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny
  • Wexford General Hospital, Wexford  
  • Cork University Hospital, Cork
  • Cork University Maternity Hospital, Cork
  • Bantry General Hospital, Cork
  • Mercy University Hospital, Cork
  • University Hospital Kerry
  • Letterkenny University Hospital, Donegal
  • Sligo University Hospital, Sligo
  • University Hospital Limerick
  • University College Hospital Galway
  • Merlin Park Hospital, Galway
  • Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore, Offaly
  • Naas General Hospital, Kildare
  • St. Colmcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown, Dublin
  • Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan, Meath
  • Our Lady of Lourdes, Drogheda, Louth
  • Louth County Hospital, Dundalk, Louth

 

SIPTU Nursing representatives meet management to discuss recruitment and pay

SIPTU Nursing representatives held a meeting with senior management at the Health Service Executive (HSE), Department of Health and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, today (Monday, 23rd January), to discuss the recruitment and pay of nurses and midwives.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “We found our engagement with management both informative and productive. There was a robust exchange of views and management was left in no doubt of the determination of our nursing members to have issues concerning their pay and the recruitment and retention of staff resolved.”

At the meeting, SIPTU nursing representatives reaffirmed that the union, as an affiliate of the ICTU Public Service Committee, will continue to forcefully make the case for pay restoration, pay progression and pay justice for its members.

Bell added: “At the meeting, we made it clear that it is our belief that the Public Service Pay Commission remains the best method for resolving the pay issue for nurses and other health workers. However, we will continue to engage with management and express our determination to achieve pay progression for our nursing members.”

SIPTU Nursing Sector Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “The meeting was an opportunity to exchange views and position documents with management on issues which continue to impact on the working lives of our members and the public who depend on them. We have agreed to engage in further meetings and dialogue. There is the potential to make significant progress on all issues relating to recruitment, retention and pay of nursing and midwifery professionals.”

SIPTU to ballot support staff for strike action in selected hospitals from Monday

SIPTU Health representatives will begin a ballot of support staff for strike action in selected hospitals on Monday, 23rd January, in a dispute concerning breaches of the national public service agreements and their exclusion from concessions provided to other emergency department workers. 

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “Our members are fully committed to winning fair and equal treatment in the workplace. The failure of the HSE and Department of Health to resolve our concerns has put our members in an intolerable and inequitable situation.

“These issues include a failure by management to adhere to the fully binding provisions of the Lansdowne Road Agreement and Haddington Road Agreement. The most crucial elements that have not been adhered to include the reintroduction of a job evaluation scheme and the application of incremental credit to interns.

“The other central issue in this dispute involves the granting of concessions by the HSE and the Department of Health to nurses working in emergency departments which have not been extended to other workers.”

He added: “After 15 months of engagement with management on the issues in dispute, our members believe enough is enough and they have been left with no option but to take action if they are to achieve justice from the employer.

“The balloting process will commence on the 23rd January with the result scheduled to be announced on Monday, 13th February. This means there is still enough time for the HSE and Department of Health to address all the outstanding issues of concern for our members.”

SIPTU Home Care

SIPTU Health is actively pursuing a national agenda on behalf of our members working in home care. A document is being produced and will be circulated to members and workplaces shortly. Below is a brief summary of the issues raised by members through their shop stewards. 

All updates can be found exclusively on the SIPTU Health App.

You can download the app for android here 

and for iPhone or iPad here

SIPTU members’ demands for better Home Care 

  • A review of contracts of employment – to take into account paid travel time and the elimination of the banking of hours system.
  • A full review of staffing and the replacement of home care workers who retire.
  • The introduction of fortnightly pay
  • A review of financial centres to ensure late payment of mileage is resolved.
  • SIPTU negotiated pay and conditions – including a review of the work undertaken by home care workers under the job evaluation scheme reintroduced as part of the Lansdowne Road agreement.
  • National Agenda

Contracts:

 A full review of the contracts is with the Workplace relations Commission (WRC)

Working over contracted hours

Working under contracted hours

Banking of hours

Related issues

This review will cover all matters relating to Contracts and may include a new work system to include travel time paid as an hourly rate and to eliminate the banking of hours. eliminate the banking of hours and to take account of the payment of travel time.

This may result in a new working pattern to include weekends and public holidays as standard. 

We will keep you informed, as negotiations progress through the new SIPTU Health App. General meetings will take place early in the New Year once the WRC has completed its work.

Working Hours:

The European TYCO directive and the impact on the hours of work of Home Helps.

 

 

This will be addressed as part of the Workplace relations Commission (WRC) review of contracts. (See above)

Staffing:

Most areas are Short staffed so work is being outsourced.

Staff who retire are not being replaced.

A full review of staffing levels is being undertaken in all areas and Management has given a written commitment that all home care packages are to be given to HSE Home Helps in the first instance. SIPTU are pursuing the replacement of staff as an ongoing IR issue.

Wages and Travel:

Most staff have a preference for Fortnightly Pay.

The late payment of mileage is causing significant financial issues.

As part of the ongoing IR agenda. SIPTU is pursing:

The introduction of fortnightly pay and a review of financial centres to ensure that the Late Payment of Mileage in some HSE areas is resolved.

 

Pay and Conditions:

 A Review of the work undertaken by Home Helps will take place under the Job Evaluation system agreed in the Lansdowne Road agreement.

 

For more information contact

SIPTU National Home Helps Committee.

Industrial Official – Ted Kenny
Chair – Carmel Barron
Vice Chair – Geraldine McNamara.
Secretary – Katherine Dowling.

SIPTU working on job evaluation scheme for support workers in the health service

SIPTU representatives discussed the planned reintroduction of a job evaluation scheme by the HSE for support grade workers in the health service, which is due to commence on 1st October 2016, at a meeting in SIPTU college on Thursday, 25th August.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “Job evaluation is a vital component of the Lansdowne Road Agreement. This meeting marks the beginning of our members’ active participation in the process of reintroducing such evaluations for support grade workers in the health service. Members across the country are being trained to assist in the completion of evaluations in their workplace and are being supported in this process by SIPTU organisers.”

He added: “For the purpose of accelerating the process a number of sites and services, will be identified on a regional basis for initial evaluation. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be consulting with our members to identify groups or grades of staff to prioritise for the initial phase of the evaluation process.”

SIPTU calls for immediate end to ‘free labour schemes’ such as JobBridge

SIPTU has called for an immediate end to JobBridge, and similar “free labour schemes”, following media revelations that a report by auditors in the Department of Social Protection has found that its monitoring system is unable to ensure its operation is not resulting in job displacement.

SIPTU General President, Jack O’Connor, said: “The results of this report, which were revealed in the media today (Sunday, 21st August), concerning the operation of the JobBridge Scheme should end the debate about continuing such ‘free labour schemes’. They must all be wound up immediately.

“No one should be surprised about the results of this report which confirm mounting anecdotal evidence concerning these schemes and a possible link to job displacement as well as other abuses. There may have been an argument for such schemes when unemployment was running at double digits but thankfully that is no longer the case.”

He added: “The sad truth is that there is an unscrupulous element among employers that will exploit any opportunity to turn a quick buck. They will strive to do this irrespective of whatever safeguards or monitoring is put in place concerning these schemes. They have no scruples about exploiting workers, conning the taxpayer or competing unfairly with other businesses.

“The only way to combat such abuse is to wind up all these schemes as it can no longer be argued that they are in any way required. In the case of the public sector, where the Government has direct control, all those currently employed on such schemes should be offered direct employment given the country’s much improved economic circumstances.”

SIPTU demands automatic extensions of service for retirement age health workers

SIPTU Health representatives have demanded that the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, sanction automatic extensions of service to all low paid health workers who require them, in order to prevent those over 65 being forced into financial hardship or onto exploitive contracts.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell said: “Many low paid workers are being forced to retire at 65 without the cushion of the state transitional pension. Over the last few months, SIPTU representatives have presented solutions to the Health Service Executive (HSE) that could prevent our members, who are compelled to retire at 65, from experiencing financial hardship as they await becoming eligible for their state pension.

“Our members, who are mainly low paid, have also been exposed to hardship by being denied their occupational pension from the day they retire from work. This specific issue was investigated by the Ombudsman for Pensions following a request from SIPTU members. The Ombudsman found that some state funded employers have a serious case to answer.”

Bell added: “What we have learned from our members making applications for one year extensions of service is the behaviour of some Section 38 Health Service employers is extremely exploitive and unacceptable. In some cases, low paid workers who are desperate to remain on payroll are being forced to sign a new contract which involves losing salary and conditions.

“In many cases low paid health service workers are being forced to accept lower basic pay and unsocial hours. This clear exploitation of workers must cease and the Government has a duty to ensure that it does.”