31/05/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

President Higgins pays tribute to essential workers

President Michael D Higgins has paid tribute to the contribution of frontline and essential workers during the coronavirus outbreak.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Late Late Show, President Higgins said consideration needed to be given to how frontline and essential workers are paid, their job security and working conditions.

The President said: “To think that of all those infected, 34% are people who are delivering themselves into the shadow of Covid every day and I thought not only of them but they have to leave home and their families behind.

“And the others who stand behind, the people who do the cleaning, the postmen who go from house-to-house. These are the essential workers, society couldn’t function without them. We pay tribute to them and thank them but we wouldn’t just want to leave it that.

“We have to ask ourselves a question – have we underrated the contribution of this most important part of our lives? We need to follow through and look at how they are remunerated, their security and the conditions they are asked to work in. So that is why it is appropriate that we are discussing this in front of the Starry Plough, a monument that celebrates workers.”

On Saturday, SIPTU members Clare Geraghty and Vincent Kearns spoke to RTE News about the vital role of all health and essential workers on the frontline of the battle to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“The health system is like an iceberg, you never get to see what’s underneath…the kitchen, cleaners and porters don’t get recognised enough for the hard work we do.”

You can watch the full video here ↓

24/05/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

SIPTU demands a voice for health workers on Nursing Home Expert Panel

SIPTU Health representatives have today (Sunday 24th, May) condemned the failure of Government to include a voice for health workers on the Nursing Home Expert Panel, established by Minister  for Health, Simon Harris, in response to the performance of the sector dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak.

SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser Paul Bell said: “We suspect that their voice has been excluded on the grounds that many of the most pertinent questions posed to the Health Service Executive and the Department of Health since the Covid-19 emergency began have been submitted by SIPTU and other unions. SIPTU representatives regularly posed questions on the unavailability of PPE, safe staffing levels, the non-availability of skilled staff and highlighted a history of poor treatment of staff in this sector for years, especially in relation to pay and protection of staff. We also raised serious concerns over the heavy reliance of agency staff, many of whom travel from facility to facility. We believe these questions cut to the core of the crisis in nursing homes and the public requires answers to ensure that what has gone on in the private nursing home sector is never to be repeated.”

He added: “SIPTU represents thousands of health workers located in both private and public nursing homes and we strongly believe that the concerns and experiences of these workers must be told. Many of our members working in these settings contracted COVID 19 and the staffing models in many private nursing home facilities exposed workers to long hours and extreme fatigue. These are two burning issues in this sector and workers want to see them addressed.”

SIPTU representatives have written to the health minister requesting trade union representation on the expert panel and also have demanded a detailed breakdown on how private nursing home operators spent the €73 million allocated to them by the Government since the Covid-19 crisis began.

24/05/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Protecting the protectors

We are all living in challenging and unprecedented times, especially those of us working in our health and public services.

That is why SIPTU Health Division has partnered with Cornmarket to offer 6 months’ FREE Salary Protection to members who are eligible to apply to join the following schemes before Tuesday, 30th June 2020: 👇

“Thousands of SIPTU Health Division members are on the frontline every day and to thank them for all the work they’re doing in this ever demanding climate, we have successfully negotiated a 6 month free offer which is available to all new members the SIPTU/Cornmarket income protection scheme until the end of June. SIPTU Health Division representatives believe this scheme will offer members financial security and peace of mind when they need it most.”

– SIPTU Sector Organiser, Kevin Figgis

“We want to thank SIPTU health members who are on the frontline or behind the scenes fighting against COVID-19 to protect our country.  Protecting your family in the event that you are unable to work due to illness is now more important than ever. Cornmarket have been looking after and protecting our public sector  customers for over 45 years and we want to continue to take care of our customers and support them through this crisis. With the support of SIPTU we have negotiated a 6 month free offer for new members of our SIPTU Health Income Protection Schemes.”

– Cornmarket Group Financial Services Director, Ivan Ahern


19/05/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

SIPTU demands government action to combat the rising numbers of health workers testing positive for Covid-19

SIPTU Health Division representatives have today (Tuesday, 19th May) demanded that the Government publishes a full and transparent breakdown of the health settings where over 7,600 workers have now tested positive for Covid-19.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser Paul Bell said: “SIPTU representatives first called for this data to be released in early April. Since then, we have seen the number of cases of health workers infected with Covid-19 increase eightfold. The Minister for Health, Simon Harris, must instruct his public health officials to issue a full and transparent breakdown that identifies these health settings and protects workers on the frontline. Our members urgently need to know if these cases are in acute hospital settings, in the community, in day services or in psychiatric services, nursing homes or intellectual disability residential settings.”

“There are three main reasons for demanding this information. Firstly, this information will identify any Covid-19 hotspots. Secondly, the information will allow us to have an understanding if health workers were exposed due to the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or poor enforcement of Health Service Executive (HSE) protocols. Finally, we will learn how these health workers were treated by their employer, and whether all those who have contracted Covid-19 have been dealt with on a fair and equal basis,” he said.

“We have learned in recent days that the “Be on Call for Ireland” initiative has resulted in health workers being contracted to work for employment agencies. The HSE has been quick to point out that these workers are not covered by Covid-19 paid leave or ‘death in service’ policies. We also want the Government to clarify what financial, medical and rehabilitation support will be provided to health workers in the aftermath of the Covid-19 emergency.

“We believe that health workers exposed to this disease should receive compensation for loss of salary and State support for medical costs which may continue in the aftermath of this emergency. These costs should include counselling services as it is feared that many health workers will develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the pandemic. This support must be afforded to all health workers.”

17/05/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Stay safe. Stay focused. #FrontlineHeroes

Last week, we pushed for a resolution to our childcare demands, demanded better testing for health workers, pay equality for all. The struggle continues.

“We’re with you right until the end.” – SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Paul Bell

12/05/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Happy international Nurses Day

On the occasion of the International Day of the Nurse and the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, SIPTU Health Division joins with the World Health Organization (WHO) and hundreds of partners worldwide to highlight the importance of nurses in the healthcare continuum and thank nurses for what they do.

Historically, as well as today, nurses are at the forefront of fighting epidemics and pandemics –  providing high quality and respectful treatment and care. They are often the first and sometimes the only health professional that people see and the quality of their initial assessment, care and treatment is vital.

Nurses account for more than half of all the world’s health workers, yet there is an urgent shortage of nurses and other health care workers worldwide.

The Covid-19 pandemic is a stark reminder of the vital role nurses play. Without nurses and other health workers, we will not win the battle against outbreaks, we will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals or universal health coverage.

As we mark this, day, the WHO is urging countries to ensure:

  • the occupational safety and health of nurses and all health workers, including notably, unhindered access to personal protective equipment so they can safely provide care and reduce infections in health care settings.
  • nurses and all health care workers have access to mental health support, timely pay, sick leave and insurance; as well as access to the most up-to-date knowledge and guidance required to respond to all health needs, including outbreaks.
  • nurses are given the financial support and other resources required to help respond to and control COVID-19 and future outbreaks

By developing their nursing workforces, countries can achieve the triple impact of improving health, promoting gender equality and supporting economic growth. Strengthening nursing will have the additional benefits of promoting gender equity (SDG5), contributing to economic development (SDG8) and supporting other Sustainable Development Goals.

10/05/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

SIPTU demands Government intervention to protect agency workers

SIPTU Health representatives have today (Sunday 10th, May) demanded immediate government intervention to ensure that all health workers who are battling to stop the spread of Covid-19 are treated equally.

SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser Paul Bell said: “In recent days, SIPTU Health representatives have demanded clarification from the Health Service Executive (HSE) on two significant points concerning the terms and conditions under which health workers who signed up to Be on Call for Ireland are currently working.”

“The first significant difference is that any directly employed worker advised by occupational health to self-isolate will receive special COVID-19 leave pay. It is our understanding that this policy does not include workers deployed from the Be on Call for Ireland work scheme.”

“SIPTU representatives were also told that there is no life cover or compensation for death in service resulting from COVID-19 as these workers have no contract with the public service. Their contract is with a private agency. This could result in the worker or their family having no support if they contract the disease and are required to self-isolate or even worse if they die in service.

“The reality is that health workers account for 29.5% of the reported COVID-19 cases so far. This is equal to over 6,600 frontline essential workers and with a confirmed fatality rate of 5 it is reasonable to assume that some of these agency workers may contract the disease and also lose their lives.”

He added: “These workers who have answered Ireland’s call are exposed to the exact same risks as workers with direct contracts of employment and this revelation needs an immediate intervention by the Government. We cannot have a situation where the State, on our behalf, procures committed health workers and should they contract COVID-19 working on the frontline of our hospitals, nursing homes or health facilities no support is provided for their families and loved ones.

“We know agencies charge a significant fee for providing a temporary worker to the employer. Given that these health workers signed up on a HSE website, one must question the role of the agency, the money being charged for this service and the rationale for the HSE avoiding its responsibility to them.”

10/05/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Sunday Video: On the frontline of the frontline

“Health Care Support Assistants make a huge difference to so many people’s lives in our community. We can’t stay at home. We are on the frontline of the #COVID19 frontline. We have to keep going.” – Geraldine McNamara

05/05/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

SIPTU says government must immediately revise childcare policy for essential workers

SIPTU Health representatives have today (Tuesday, 5th May) called on the Government to immediately revise the date for the reopening of childcare facilities and to offer a special “annual leave credit” for all health and essential workers.

SIPTU Divisional Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “Unfortunately, the proposed date of Monday 29th June is not good enough for thousands of health and essential workers. Some progress was made last week to secure paid leave entitlements for health service workers experiencing severe difficulties with childcare obligations. However, the Government remains lethargic in its response to an issue which is seriously impacting on a huge number workers involved in the health emergency. The reality is that the scheduled date for the reopening of childcare facilities and services places a further eight weeks of intolerable pressure on our frontline workers.

“Many health and essential workers rely on informal childcare arrangements usually with the assistance of parents, close older family members and combined with school or creche facilities. The Government rightly in the defence of older people against the COVID 19 virus requested that these citizens cocoon but failed to address the consequence of this public health policy. The issue of childcare has also been devastating for lone parents trying to attend work on the frontline. While it is a positive development that from Monday, 18th May, childcare workers can care for the children in the home of essential workers on a voluntary basis the issue of how health and essential workers will pay for these services must be clarified.”

He added: “It is also time for the Government to engage with union representatives and the Health Service Executive to compensate workers forced to use up their annual leave provision for childminding obligations. It has allowed this matter to drift from week to week continually promising a solution and many of our members have now exhausted their annual leave allocation to provide childcare. It is not good enough. SIPTU representatives are now calling on the Government to reimburse these essential workers by offering them a special “annual leave credit” which can be used later in the year.”

03/05/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Staying the course. Facing the challenges together. #FrontlineHeroes

This week SIPTU Health representatives secured pay justice and equality for Student Radiographers working on the Covid-19 frontline, reacted to a new childcare policy being published and worked on the development of Section 39 redeployment proposal. Stay in touch by emailing covid19info@siptuhealth.ie and stay safe.