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.

20/10/2020 Comments are off SIPTU Health

Health workers pay set to improve

Pay scales for SIPTU members in the public health service have been updated to reflect the final 2% adjustment under the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA), which came into effect from 1st October.

The adjustment applies to staff across the public health service, ‘section 38’ organisations including voluntary hospitals, and non-commercial State agencies covered by the PSSA.

Cuts to fixed allowances are also being reversed this month.

The deal, which was negotiated by SIPTU and other unions in 2017, expires at the end of 2020 and exploratory talks on a successor agreement began last month, and are currently continuing. 

It has been confirmed to SIPTU that the 2% will be applied to members salaries by 13th November or earlier depending on payroll frequency or cycles. Arrears will be paid in October/November across all payroll areas, however, no later than 30th November 2020.

Over the course of this three year agreement, the PSSA brought pay adjustments of more than 7% for the vast majority of SIPTU Health members. The agreement ends on 31st December 2020.

See DOH Consolidated Pay Scales 01 October 2020 for further details.

16/10/2020 Comments are off SIPTU Health

No going back: Rebuilding better public and community services for all

The effect, impact and consequences of the global pandemic are profound, beyond description even, in terms of loss of human life, loss of human contact, the way we existed, lived and worked our daily lives.  

The effect on economic activity and employment will undoubtedly be very severe but we must manage our way through the course of the pandemic with the overriding objective of saving human life and doing so in a manner that protects fully the less well-off and most vulnerable in our society, and maintains social cohesiveness.

For our members in the Public Service at the front-line of delivering essential services in this most difficult time, you once again showed the true value of our public services and of public servants delivering essential services  at time of crisis, regardless of the risk, stress and fatigue you continue to be exposed to and you deserve to be recognised for that contribution by all in our society.

We are witness to some unprecedented measures taken by some governments across the world and in Ireland to help their citizens, their health and public service systems, their economy via employment, social protection schemes, supports to businesses and so on.

The Budget announced on Tuesday outlined some extraordinary measures deemed necessary as we chart this course, it is regarded as the largest package in the history of the state, in the region of €20 billion, with €14.5 billion directly to COVID-19 supports.

Truly staggering figures – the cost of funding which will be kicked down the road and spread over years of expected growth.

It may therefore appear to be difficult to over-criticise a Budget of such proportions, with so much going to deliver essential public services, protect jobs and give workers who lose jobs some income.  

However, let us not give the government parties a free pass nor allow them make a virtue out of necessity at this point. They must accept that many of the issues that led to such drastic measures being necessary is because they weren’t right in the first place. Chronic under-investment in public services, in social protection including statutory sick pay, are the significant contributors as to why such drastic measures became necessary.

They crystalised why austerity measures implemented in the financial crisis, failed us all, our society and our citizens and it is why, colleagues, we must ensure that we mobilise and get behind, and campaign on the “No Going Back Policy  Platform”. We must learn from the crisis of the importance of good well resourced public services.

Despite the staggering figures in the budget it is clear the Government has still not taken the opportunity to drive public investment in the years to come. The Fiscal Council – a very fiscally conservative body – called for a €10 billion stimulus over the next three years driven by public investment, the Government’s public investment budget for next year only increased by €600 million above what was planned pre-pandemic.

SIPTU, along with our colleagues in the ICTU, were very busy for the last 6/7 months, engaging with government and employer bodies in, a social dialogue  on these challenges and successfully ensured many of the measures referred to above were implemented.

Employers and government rightfully recognised the voice of working people as a social dialogue partner and we have work to do to push this agenda along, particularly in the area of the right to collectively bargain, and to sectoral social dialogue and the budget writers missed an opportunity here particularly given the levels of supports going to business and enterprises. 

SIPTU has launched its own fiscal policy strategy, which has anti-austerity and investment in public services as key principles to address looking forward the impact of the pandemic, Brexit, climate change and automation. 

Colleagues, I would like to talk a little bit about the impact that the challenge of COVID-19 has had on SIPTU, particularly with regard to how we went about doing our business on a daily basis.

Meeting members, individually and in small or large groups, has proved very challenging, depending on the restrictions imposed, maybe not allowed. Equally challenging has been the way, we engaged with employers and third-party mechanisms.  How the union organises workers and recruits workers is also challenging.

We will be doing some work to explore how best we are going to continue to meet these challenges over the next while, depending on the course of the Pandemic and the level of restrictions imposed by government.

Going forward, we need to look at how our committees are functioning, AGMs in 2021 and balloting procedures and so on, are just some of the issues that require reflection.

I do want to acknowledge the support, co-operation and understanding received from you all to date as we moved quite quickly into this new way of doing our business.

Maybe never before has the role of the shop steward been so important, as you in the workplace are the vital link for the Union to maintain contact with members and, importantly, in recruiting and organising new workers. 

On the private sector side of the union, it is very challenging for many of our members – loss of incomes, job losses, layoffs, short-time in certain sectors has been the order of the day – Construction, Aviation, Hospitality and Industrial Production.

The re-opening of the economy has helped to alleviate this but permanent job losses will become a feature of the next few months and there is a definite slow-down in advances in pay and conditions of employment.

On the Public Service Agreement side, as you are all aware, the current agreement expires on 31st December 2020.

The Public Services Committee did engage with the government side over the last few months in relation to stabilising the existing agreement and ensuring the final awards due were paid on the 1st October.

As I speak to you now, no formal talks process on a new agreement has begun and no invitation has been received by the Public Services Committee to any such talks.

The officers of the Public Services Committee met with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform with his officials and it is fair to say that both sides believe a new agreement is desirable.  

However, both sides have clearly stated, it won’t be an agreement at any price. What we have been doing is trying to scope out with the Government about what the principles of an agreement would look like.

At the moment, that is proving difficult and complex as there are significant differences and we are awaiting further interaction with them, post the budgetary processes this week.

For our union, we know the issues.  Our Biennial Conference in 2019 and the interrupted consultation process that we began early this year in advance of talks that would normally have taken place over May/June, gave us a very clear view.

COVID-19 and all of its implications, budgetary and so on, have clearly challenged the landscape but in this union’s view, that does not mean that we will accept an agreement that does not deliver for our members and the public service.

Any new agreement must rid itself of the vestiges of the past, it cannot be rooted in the language of continued austerity, it must offer hope and a vision of public service that is about investment, development, progression and fair reward for the contribution that is made by public servants.

A new agreement must rid itself of the regressive measures that reduced the earnings potential of public servants, and it must hold and advance the existing service delivery options to protect, grow and develop public service jobs and employment opportunities.

It must present opportunities for public service workers to explore the reform of the workplace that has happened since COVID-19, in a way that works for them, in a healthy, family friendly, ergonomic and productive manner.

We are trying to bring the Community Sector and Section 39 agencies into a better place during this time.  There is significant intransigent opposition to this on the government side.  We are supporting our members in an industrial and political campaign.  

There is a lot of work to do for these members who, as we know, provide essential care to the most vulnerable in our society.

We do know there is a good economic effect to pay increases, to the economy and to the sectors of the economy – Hospitality and so on, that will need spending to re-boot and generate employment.  

This is something that should not be lost on the government.

Speech by SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, John King 

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.”