Fresh pay claims served on employers in community and voluntary health; and care services

The three unions representing staff working in community and voluntary sector agencies funded by the HSE – SIPTU, Fórsa and the INMO – have confirmed that fresh pay claims have been served on a number of employers in the sector.

The fresh pay claims have been served on employers in the context of an ongoing dispute about pay terms in HSE-funded agencies providing health and care services.

While funded by the State, employees in a range of health professional, clinical, clerical and administrative grades are on lesser terms and conditions than their HSE counterparts.

The Minister for Health acknowledged in the Dáil last October that the Government is the ‘main and often sole funder’ of these organisations, and that its funding affects the ability of agencies to improve pay and conditions.

Earlier this week the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, and the Department of Health, confirmed they would attend the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) along with the HSE, in anticipated conciliation talks on the issue.

The departments confirmed their intention to attend at a meeting of the National Joint Council on Tuesday the 28th of March, the main industrial relations forum for the health service, comprised of representatives from management and trade unions.

Until 2008, workers in these agencies received pay increases under national wage agreements. At the onset of the financial crisis they were subject to FEMPI pay cuts in line with the same cuts applied to public sector pay.

Limited pay restoration measures were eventually won by unions in 2019 but pay in these agencies remains significantly behind, and no formal mechanism for collective pay bargaining exists for workers in the sector.

The unions have said they remain available to engage with the departments and the HSE under the auspices of the WRC, and are hopeful of an imminent conciliation meeting.

St. Cronan’s Association staff call for inclusion in pandemic payment scheme

SIPTU members employed as day services staff by the St. Cronan’s Association, which provides support to adults living with intellectual disabilities at four facilities in the Midlands, have called for their inclusion in the Pandemic Special Recognition Payment (PSRP) scheme.

SIPTU Organiser, Liz Cloherty, said: “The HSE engaged the services of a consultancy firm, KOSI Corporation Ltd, to oversee the roll out of the PSRP scheme to staff in non-HSE and Section 38 agencies last year.

“KOSI Ltd has issued guidelines for the payment to these organisations which state that only workers in Section 39 long-term residential facilities are eligible under the scheme. The guidelines omit any mention of payment to staff who provide a day service around the country, including our members who provide care in the St. Cronan’s Association facilities.

“Our members simply cannot understand why they are not being included along with other employees who are in receipt of the PSRP. These same members were recognised as a priority for the Covid vaccination programme. Many of the people they supported were unable to wear protective masks. They provided personal care and could not practice social distancing from their clients including when they transported them for PCR tests or were requested to go into family homes.

“They played their part in protecting vulnerable adults and our health services during the pandemic. We are calling on common sense to prevail and that day service staff be included in the PSRP scheme.”

The St. Cronan’s Association provides day support to adults living with intellectual disabilities and autism at sites in Roscrea and Nenagh in county Tipperary and Birr in county Offaly.

SIPTU calls on Minister for Health to end disparity in payments to assaulted healthcare workers

SIPTU representatives have written to the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, today (Wednesday, 15th March), seeking action by him to address the disparity in payments to public healthcare workers who are victims of serious physical assault in the workplace.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “SIPTU representatives highlighted the disparity in payments to healthcare workers who are victims of serious physical assault at a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health in February.

“We highlighted the fact that under the HSE Serious Physical Assault Scheme, healthcare support workers are only eligible to receive payments for three months while other grades may receive payments for up to a year, even if they are assaulted in the same incident. SIPTU representatives also provided statistical data that demonstrates that support workers suffer the second highest level of assaults in healthcare workplaces, after nursing staff.

“Our union had to seek the intervention of the Minister for Health on this matter. This follows our lodging of a claim to have equality for support workers under the HSE Serious Physical Assault Scheme in late 2021. While the HSE noted the merits of the claim, we were advised that it would need the sanction of the Department of Health to address our concerns. The matter has remained with the Department of Health since then with no sign of resolution or progress. As such, we have decided to call for action directly from the Minister for Health.”

He added: “There is no justification for support workers being treated any less favourably than their healthcare colleagues when they are dealing with the fallout of an assault in their workplace. We expect the Minister to now take action to resolve this completely unacceptable situation.”