SIPTU members in the St. Vincent’s Centre in Cork City are to transfer their employment to the COPE Foundation, which will result in improved terms and conditions of work and the maintenance of its vital services for residents.
SIPTU Organiser, Sharon Cregan, said: “This move will bring to an end a long period of uncertainty for the staff employed at the centre which cares for women with intellectual disabilities. The issue emerged in early 2017 with disagreement between the HSE and Sisters of Charity over who was responsible for the staff when the centre was de-registered.
“The Section 39 organisation was governed by the Sisters of Charity until the HSE stepped in in March 2017. Within months, HIQA published a report on foot of a visit to the centre which identified major non-compliance issues in key areas. These issues have been resolved and with the agreement which has been reached for COPE Foundation to assume the operations of the service the future of the workforce is also now ensured.
“Throughout this time the staff maintained continuity of service. The staff have worked with the residents for many years. They know them and wanted to ensure their wellbeing and that they could live as independently as possible.
“We received today (Thursday, 3rd September) correspondence from the HSE inviting both SIPTU and the INMO to meet its representatives on Thursday next, 10th September, to commence discussions and negotiations in relation to the impending transfer. At this meeting union representatives will be ensuring that this transfer of undertakings progresses successfully.
“The COPE Foundation is a Section 38 organisation. As such it is funded to provide a defined level of service on behalf of the HSE and will provide workers with improved terms and conditions of employment.”
She added: “The transfer of these services to the COPE Foundation is a very welcome development which should ensure the best outcome for the workers and residents of the St Vincent’s Centre.”
SIPTU representatives have today (Tuesday, 1st September) condemned the National Ambulance Service (NAS) management for failing to pay emergency medical technicians (EMTs) their full wages due to staff shortages in the payroll department.
SIPTU Ambulance Sector Organiser, Miriam Hamilton, said: “Since the beginning of the pandemic, our members in the NAS have gone above and beyond the call of duty to provide a full emergency service in communities across the country. Our members also took on a substantial amount of additional and crucial roles to swab and test for Covid-19. They have visited people’s homes, residential services, meat factories and established pop up testing facilities in communities to stop the spread of the coronavirus. This is no way to treat these loyal and dedicated workers who have been on the frontline from day one.”
She added: “It is deeply frustrating and of great concern that the NAS management has today advised us that due to staffing shortages in the payroll department emergency medical technicians in Intermediate Care Services will only get basic pay, with no shift pay or overtime. It’s not acceptable. Our members working on the frontline are essentially being financially penalised for the failure of the HSE to recruit vital frontline staff into the service.”
SIPTU representatives have called for the immediate implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of the COVID 19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel if the private sector is to continue to play a role in the delivery of elder care.
SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, John King, said: “SIPTU representatives have long campaigned for better care for all patients and better jobs for all workers in our health service. The recommendations contained in this report must be immediately actioned by the Department of Health and the HSE as they provide a way of ensuring a better outcome for patients and the health workers who provide and deliver these essential services.
“SIPTU representatives made a detailed submission and contribution to the Expert Panel and it is welcome that many of our recommendations are evident in the final report. The recommendations clearly vindicate our union’s longstanding position on the need for high quality training, education and continuing professional development for all nursing home workers.
“The reality is, Covid-19 has brutally exposed many of the shortcomings within the private nursing home sector. We believe the Department of Health and the HSE must now move to provide the necessary resources and capacity to make sure the provision of health care for our older people is improved to the appropriate level.”
He added: “SIPTU is now calling for a full review into the pay and conditions of workers in the sector. This review must include trade unions as key stakeholders, and as the representative voice of workers in the sector. Our members believe there cannot be two standards of provision of health care in Ireland. We are calling for the HSE to be charged with the primary responsibility for setting the standards and delivering the training to all nursing home workers.”
Sisters of Charity workers will highlight their demand for management to meet them and pay them a fair redundancy, in a socially distanced protest outside their former place of work.
The Labour Court has recommended that staff employed by the Sisters of Charity – run independently, but funded by the State – should receive redundancy payments equivalent to those paid to health workers in the public service.
Union representatives to meet KPMG liquidators to discuss a fair redundancy package for St Monica’s workers
Union representatives have tonight (Tuesday, 11th August) confirmed that representatives from SIPTU, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) and Fórsa Trade Union representatives will meet with KPMG, the provisional liquidator of the St. Monica’s Nursing Home tomorrow (Wednesday, 12th August) in Dublin.
SIPTU Health Organiser, Brian Condra, said: “It not acceptable that instead of engaging with union representatives, accepting an invitation to a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) conciliation conference, that the Sisters of Charity would rather walk away from their responsibilities, not pay our members a fair redundancy package and simply send in the liquidators. This is no way to treat staff who have provided years of outstanding service for residents, their families and our communities. Even now at the eleventh hour, we would call on the Sisters of Charity to do the right thing and meet with their staff as a matter of urgency.”
INMO Assistant Director of Industrial Relations, Lorraine Monaghan, said: “The Sisters of Charity are sitting on substantial assets and have the means to pay a fair redundancy package to the loyal, committed staff in the St. Monica’s Nursing Home. We are calling on them to immediately engage with the unions and agree to release the necessary funds to ensure all staff receive a redundancy payment that the Labour Court has deemed fair and reasonable for this type of service.”
Fórsa Assistant General Secretary, Seán McElhinney, said: “The residents of St Monica’s and their families have been quick to express support for the workforce, while the Sisters of Charity have remained silent. It might seem to some that the Sisters are hiding behind the bureaucracy of the liquidation, and having scant regard for the livelihoods that are being lost.”
He added: “The residents, and their families, have seen, first hand, the care and compassion with which the workers of St Monica’s have discharged their duties for years. For those same workers to now be treated with such profound dispassion will be a great shame to the Sisters of Charity, if they decline to come forward and engage with the Unions.”
SIPTU, Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) and Fórsa Trade Union representatives have today (Monday 10th August) written to Sisters of Charity management seeking an emergency meeting to discuss the payment of a fair redundancy package to staff in Caritas Convalescent Centre, St. Mary’s Centre Telford and St. Monica’s Nursing Home.
The call comes following second day of lunchtime protest outside St. Monica’s Nursing Home in Dublin today.
SIPTU Health Organiser, Brian Condra, said: “The loyal, dedicated staff in all three facilities owned by the Sisters of Charity, have provided years of outstanding service and have always put the patients first. In recent months, they faced the pandemic head on and continued to provide an optimum service to ensure patients were cared for, supported and made feel safe and secure at all times.
He added: “The Sisters of Charity must to do the right thing, considering the position our members now find themselves in, their years of dedicated service, precedent set in this area on redundancy payments and the most recent Labour Court Recommendation.
INMO Assistant Director of Industrial Relations, Lorraine Monaghan said: “The staff are devastated that they are now losing their jobs at a time of great uncertainty and are parting with their patients and colleagues. They are disappointed that the Sisters of Charity have not yet confirmed that they will play their part and put forward the necessary funds to ensure that staff receive the redundancy package that the Labour Court deems fair and reasonable.”
She added: “Union representatives are calling on the Sisters of Charity, to ensure the necessary funds will be released immediately to implement this recommendation in Caritas Convalescent Centre and that the Labour Court Recommendation will be applied in St. Mary’s Telford and St. Monica’s Nursing Home as the circumstances are the same in all three facilities.”
Fórsa Assistant General Secretary, Seán McElhinney, said: “Workers in all three facilities have provided the highest quality of care to their residents. While families and residents have expressed profound regret for the plight of the workforce, the Sisters of Charity have remained silent.
He added: “Worry and uncertainty are rife among the workforce. The Sisters of Charity can, and must, make it known that they intend to fund the recommendation of the Labour Court. The silence cannot continue.”
SIPTU members have reacted with anger, disappointment and hurt at the comments made by Fianna Fáil TD, Marc MacSharry who has accused public servants of laziness during the Covid-19 crisis.
SIPTU Deputy General Secretary for the Public Service, John King, said: “Earlier this week, SIPTU representatives took the view that Deputy MacSharry’s theatrical attempt to grab cheap media headlines was not worthy of a response. However, given the volume of emails, phone calls and messages from members over the last 24 hours since the deputy repeated his outrageous comments we believe we must give public expression to the level of anger, disappointment and hurt felt by public service workers working across the country.
“Deputy MacSharry’s comments clearly demonstrate a fundamental lack of appreciation and understanding of the efforts made by hundreds of thousands of public servants who have worked around the clock to stop the spread of the coronavirus from day one of the outbreak. SIPTU members in the public service are not only on the frontline of our hospitals and emergency services but have kept essential community services going throughout the crisis, are playing a pivotal role in contact tracing and testing, are volunteering to deliver essential goods to our most vulnerable and are processing record numbers of social protection payments.
“The reality is that these essential public services are provided by hard working and diligent workers including SIPTU members in the deputy’s own constituency in the Institute of Technology Sligo, in Sligo and Leitrim county councils, in Sligo University Hospital and the HSE National Recruitment Service in Leitrim and other employments.”
He added: “Our members are demanding Deputy MacSharry listens to the advice of his parliamentary colleagues in Fianna Fáil and other parties, withdraws his comments, apologises and puts an end to this kind of misleading rhetoric that only serves to divide public and private sector workers at a time when the economic recovery of the country requires unity and solidarity.”
Over time the questions will get louder: ‘How do we reduce the deficit? How will we repay all these bills?’ Some will claim there is no alternative to spending cuts and tax increases; that is, austerity.
There is, however, a better response summed up in one word: growth. It is economic growth that will reduce the deficit and ‘repay the bills’. The Irish Fiscal Advisory Council shows as much – that most of the deficit will be wiped out by 2025 without any policy change.
We can’t, however, rely on growth alone. We need extra resources for investment (housing, climate justice, public transport), public services such as health and education; and enhanced in-work benefits such as illness benefit and family supports. Where will we get these resources from?
Let’s not think that deficits and debt are something only Finance Ministers can fix. Restructuring the workplace can also play a role. Among other high-income EU countries, Ireland has low wages, the smallest proportion of national income.
Driving up wages, especially for low and average income earners, obviously benefits workers. It benefits the economy through more spending. It benefits the public finances because it drives up tax revenue and reduces subsidies to low-wage employers. And the best way to drive up wages is by expanding collective bargaining rights. Give workers the tools to achieve wage justice in the workplace and watch the economy grow and public finances stabilise.
Investment is another way to reduce the deficit and debt. Investment is not a cost. It is a down-payment today to achieve higher revenue growth in the future. Investments in affordable housing and childcare, public transport and retrofitting, education and Just Transition – these will put people to work today and grow the economy in the long term.
We will also need to look at our tax system. We are a low-taxed economy. But not in workers’ personal taxation and spending taxes (VAT, excise). We lag behind other European countries in employers’ PRSI and capital taxes.
We will need to increase these over time to ensure we have the resources to invest in social prosperity.
SIPTU will be addressing economic and social issues in the weeks and months ahead. We intend to set the agenda, not follow it; and give leadership on the innovative and democratic policies that are necessary to vindicate our members and all workers.
SIPTU representatives have today (Friday, 24th July) called for an urgent meeting with the management of St Marys, Telford in south Dublin. The call comes following a meeting between management and a liquidator.
SIPTU Health Organiser, Brian Condra said: “The news that management has met with liquidators has shocked and disappointed our members. SIPTU members in St. Mary’s Telford have a longstanding and proud tradition of providing exemplary care for vulnerable residents and patients in the facility.
“Our members had an agreement with management that the closure of this facility would not happen until at least December 2020 and that negotiations to minimise actual job losses through possible redeployment measures would take place.
“Despite ongoing negotiations, management met with the liquidators today. We believe this action is premature and it has caused confusion and deep hurt among the staff, residents and their families.”
He added: “SIPTU representatives have written to the management seeking an urgent meeting with them and the liquidator, to find out why these essential negotiations to secure proper protections for members and to preserve this vital service for the community, have been suddenly shelved.”