SIPTU representatives received the following update from the HSE on Risk Assessment for COVID- 19 Vaccination for HCW.
Click here for read letter to Unions and management from Chief Clinical Officer of the HSE, Colm Henry
We understand these documents will be circulated to staff on Tuesday 20th July.
More information will be available in our SIPTU Health Industrial Newsletter this Wednesday, 21st July.
If you have any questions or queries please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Whistleblowing is about protecting #HumanRights On #WorldWhistleblowersDay we would like to express our thanks and solidarity to all whistleblowers for their courage in standing up to challenge injustices.
The OECD have said that Ireland’s Protected Disclosures Act 2014 provides the strongest protections in Europe for whistleblowers in the workplace.
The Republic was long overdue proper legislation in this area, but the events surrounding the treatment of Sgt Maurice McCabe and other whistleblowers was the impetus that drove Brendan Howlin to introduce the Protected Disclosures Act in 2014.
The Act gives protection for workers who are threatened with or suffer detriment at the hands of, their employers for “whistleblowing” in accordance with the provisions of the legislation.
This brief FAQ gives a broad overview of the fundamental provisions but should not be relied upon as a legal guide as there are extensive and complex provisions within the Act.
As with all employment legislation, SIPTU members can seek individual advice and assistance through the Workers’ Rights Centre (1890-747881).
How is a worker defined for the purposes of the Act?
The definition is the widest so far in employment legislation and there are four main groups that come under the legislation:
- Agency Workers
- People gaining work experience.
Importantly, the 12-month service requirement under the Unfair Dismissals Acts will not apply and therefore protection will be from day one of employment.
What type of matters would fall under protected disclosures?
- The commission of a criminal offence
- Failure to comply with a legal obligation
- Miscarriages of justice
- Threat to health and safety
- Damage to the environment
- Misuse of public funds
- Public mismanagement/maladministration
What is the process for making the disclosure?
In order to enjoy the protections under the Act, the worker must have a reasonable belief in the allegations made and he/she must go through the prescribed channels, which means a worker may communicate his/her disclosure to:
- An employer (an internal disclosure).
- A legal advisor in the course of obtaining legal advice (a legal advisor includes a barrister, solicitor or trade union official for the purposes of this legislation)
- Externally to a regulatory body (these will be set out shortly)
- Externally to a Government Minister (in the case of a worker in a State body)
- Externally to others (e.g. media or a member of the house of the Oireachtas).
Note: Stronger qualifying criteria must be met for external disclosure.
The disclosure must not be for personal gain, there must be a reasonable belief that victimisation will ensue and the worker reasonably believed that the employer would either conceal or destroy the evidence or in the alternative, the matter was raised with the employer and no action was taken.
What protections are there for the worker?
If it is a protected disclosure the employer cannot penalise or threaten to penalise an employee and there is immunity from civil liability i.e. the whistleblower cannot be sued for defamation if the subject matter qualifies as a protected disclosure. The protections in the legislation will not apply to false disclosures deliberately made.
If a contravention of the prohibition on penalisation is alleged then the employee can bring his/her claim to a Rights Commissioner, the Labour Court or the Circuit Court (see below).
What are the specific protections relating to Unfair Dismissals?
Significantly, and for the first time in Irish employment law, an employee can apply to the Circuit Court for a statutory injunction within 21 days of the dismissal, seeking reinstatement/re-engagement, as determined by the court in accordance with the specific provisions laid down in the Act.
Trade unions at the time lobbied strongly for this form of interim relief.
The cap of two years’ salary as compensation under the Unfair Dismissals Acts is increased to a maximum of five years and the protections for the employee are put in place from day one of the employment, i.e. there is no minimum service requirement.
SIPTU representatives met today (Wednesday, 21st April) with representatives of the HSE National Vaccination Team.
At the meeting, HSE representatives confirmed an IT Portal opened last week for people aged between 65-69 years of age.
SIPTU representatives understand 122,000 registrations have been received to date. 41,800 appointments have issued and 3,150 people have attended for vaccination so far.
SIPTU representatives were advised the HSE is currently engaging with GP practices relating to the vaccination plan for Category Four and Seven. It is expected over 1,000 GP practices will remain as part of the programme.
People under 60 years of age will be offered the Pfizer/Moderna vaccine as the advice of The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC)
Healthcare workers (HCWs) who have received a first dose AstraZeneca vaccine will be offered a second dose vaccine in line with NIAC advice.
At the meeting, the HSE also confirmed it has asked all Hospital Groups and CHO Areas to provide a special email address for the purpose of being a contact point for healthcare workers who have not yet been vaccinated.
This may include staff returning from maternity leave, career break or other long-term absence. Details of these contact points are to be provided to the unions shortly for wide distribution.
SIPTU representatives were advised an extension of the statutory instrument is being considered to widen the scope of grades who may undertake the vaccinator role.
Finally, SIPTU representatives were advised 26 of the proposed 37 vaccination centres are currently open.
It was confirmed all staff working in a vaccination centre will be offered a vaccine in line with NIAC advice.
Members can view a full update from SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Kevin Figgis here
SIPTU members working in the Bon Secours Health System are to commence a national ballot for industrial action, up to and including strike action, in an effort to secure a job evaluation process for up to 500 support grade workers.
SIPTU Sector Organiser, Miriam Hamilton, said: “Following wide consultation over the last number of weeks with our shop stewards in the Bon Secours Health System, it has been agreed to ballot for both industrial and strike action across five hospital locations in Dublin, Limerick, Galway, Cork and Kerry.”
“Despite repeated requests, the Bon Secours management has refused to engage with SIPTU representatives on the implementation of a job evaluation scheme. The Bon Secours Health System and SIPTU have a long standing agreement linking the pay and working conditions of our Bon Secours members to those of workers in the HSE. The actions of management in recent weeks have threatened this link and our members won’t stand for it. Our members believe that pay movements arising from the implementation of the job evaluation scheme in the HSE should also be applied to support grade workers in the Bon Secours Health System.”
She added: “The ballot of members, to protect this vital link between the HSE and the Bon Secours Health System, will take place in the coming weeks. Management must accept that support grade workers, including health care assistants, porters, catering attendants and cleaners are essential to the running of every hospital and deserve to feel valued and respected. SIPTU representatives remain available to meet with management and we again call on them to engage with us in advance of our ballot in an attempt to find a resolution to this dispute.”
UNI Global Union, which represents 2 million care workers worldwide, today said the COVID-19 pandemic has made nursing homes some of the most hazardous—and even deadly—workplaces in the world.
In a new report released today—The Most Dangerous Job: The Impact of COVID-19 on Long-Term Care Workers in the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, and Australia—UNI reveals how similar issues across the long-term care sector in five countries contributed to COVID-19 contagion and deaths not just for residents but also the vulnerable workers in the industry.
“We are already facing tragedy of an unspeakable scale, but I fear that much more loss is in store,” said Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union. “We do not know the impact that COVID will have on workers over time, and unless the working conditions that helped virus spread like wildfire through care homes—the lack of PPE, low wages, no paid sick days, no union representation—are fixed, serious problems will persist after vaccinations and after this pandemic.”
Speaking following the release of the report, SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “There has never been a greater need for serious investment by the Government in the wider nursing home sector. There is an over reliance on the ‘for profit’ sector to provide this essential care to our most vulnerable citizens. The Government has a duty to ensure that all health care workers in both public and private nursing homes have decent terms and conditions of employment including pay, adequate pension provision and paid sick leave.
“Long term residential care settings have been the hardest hit sector affected by the pandemic. Over 1,600 people have died with Covid-19 in long term residential care settings since the outset of this dreadful pandemic with 369 of these separate tragedies happening in January alone. The Government has a responsibility to ensure that all residents and staff are protected and have a safe working environment with respectable conditions of employment.”
Public service unions affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions today (Tuesday) endorsed a new public service agreement after 13 out of 17 unions in the sector, which collectively represent the overwhelming majority of Ireland’s public servants, backed the deal.
The package, called Building Momentum, was formally ratified at a meeting of ICTU’s Public Services Committee (PSC) this morning.
The agreement, which comes into force with immediate effect and runs until December 2022, includes modest pay increases skewed towards those on lower incomes, measures to address important remaining issues from the last financial crisis, and a mechanism for sectoral bargaining drawing on a a ‘sectoral bargaining fund,’ initially worth 1% of basic pensionable pay during the lifetime of the agreement. It retains strong protections against the privatisation and outsourcing of public services.
Building Momentum also acknowledges the recent “unprecedented display of commitment, flexibility, hard work and agility in public service provision” and commits the parties to harness this momentum to meet challenges including the continuing response to Covid-19, a return to normal delivery of health and education services, Brexit, digitisation, and establishing the public service as the driver of best practice on remote working.
Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan, who chairs ICTU’s Public Services Committee, said ICTU-affiliated unions were committed to the full implementation of the agreement which would bring tangible benefits to those who use and provide public services. “The pay terms represent a realistic and acceptable approach to incomes, and they are substantially skewed towards lower earners in a very challenging context of limited resources,” he said.
SIPTU deputy general secretary John King, who is secretary to the ICTU PSC said: “From the outset of our membership consultations, it was clear that there was a real appetite to reject austerity agreements, and improve and progress pay while protecting public service delivery and public service jobs. There was also a demand to try and find a way to deal with grade-related pressure points, without undermining a collective agreement. This short, two year agreement can deliver on these objectives while providing security in times of great uncertainty for all workers across public service.”
INTO general secretary John Boyle said: ““While the pay increases of 1% per annum are modest, the addition of €500 per year to salaries below €50,000 is appropriate particularly for those in the early stages of their careers. The inclusion of a sectoral bargaining fund of 1% of payroll is vital to allow unions to address a range of long-standing claims by next February.”
INMO general secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha said: “From meeting with our members across the country, it is clear that the main issues for them were restoration of hours to pre-2013 levels, safe staffing, and funds to deal with nursing management outstanding claims. The challenges to retain staff in our health services are real. All aspects of this agreement must be fully implemented over its two-year lifetime.”
The PSC officers are now in discussions with senior officials at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) about the implementation of elements of the deal, including the establishment of the processes to address additional working time introduced under the 2013 Haddington Road agreement and to establish bargaining units in relation to the deal’s sectoral bargaining provisions.
The main features of Building Momentum include:
· A general round increase worth 1% of gross pay or €500 a year, whichever is the greater, on 1st October 2021. This means those on lower incomes will receive a significantly larger percentage increase than higher paid staff.
· A second general round increase worth 1% of gross pay or €500 a year, whichever is the greater on 1stOctober 2022. This means those on lower incomes will receive a significantly larger percentage increase than higher paid staff.
· Provision for the equivalent of a 1% increase in annualised basic salaries through a ‘sectoral bargaining fund’ (see below) on 1st February 2022.
· The establishment of a ‘sectoral bargaining fund,’ initially worth 1% of basic pensionable pay during the lifetime of the agreement, to deal with outstanding adjudications, recommendations, awards and claims, with the option for groups to use the available allocation as a sectoral pay round.
Issues outstanding from the 2013 Haddington Road agreement
· Recognition that certain measures introduced under the Haddington Road agreement (HRA) “are to be addressed and implemented” including:
· The establishment of an independent body by the end of March 2021, to make recommendations to begin the process of returning to pre-Haddington Road hours, with €150 million available to commence implementation of the outcome during 2022, and provision for a successor agreement to engage on the roll-out of additional recommendations.
· Measures to address the ‘new entrant’ teacher issue, which will see those recruited since 1st January 2011 move from point 11 to point 13 of the pay scale, or move up one additional point.
· Restoration of overtime and premium payments to pre-2013 levels.
Maintaining the momentum for reform
· Acknowledgement of the recent “unprecedented display of commitment, flexibility, hard work and agility in public service provision” and pledge the parties to harness this momentum to meet the immediate challenges of 2021 and 2022, including the continuing response to Covid-19, a return to normal delivery of health and education services, including addressing challenges that arose for children during the crisis, managing the response to Brexit, establishing the public service as the driver of best practice on remote working, and addressing digitisation.
· Measures to harness the potential for technology to improve service delivery.
· Measures to improve access to services through reformed work practices, including enabling temporary reassignments where necessary and increasing the movement of staff across the public service where necessary.
· An implementation and reporting mechanism to ensure delivery of agreed reforms, including through sectoral action plans.
· The agreement retains existing safeguards on any proposed outsourcing of public service provision.
Service stability and industrial peace
· The agreement sets out a detailed dispute resolution process, including an “industrial peace” clause in line with previous public service agreements.
SIPTU members have given an overwhelming endorsement of the proposals in Building Momentum – A New Public Service Agreement 2021-2022.
Union representatives approached the talks with a clear indication of what our members sought from a future public service agreement.
This was based on motions submitted to Biennial Delegate Conference in October 2019 and consultation meetings with activists in January 2020 before the onset of Covid-19.
It was clear members wanted to move away from austerity agreements, achieve income progression and hold on to the protective clauses on outsourcing with no compulsory redundancies.
There was also a demand to try and find a way to deal with grade related pressure points – without undermining a collective agreement.
The new Agreement provides for pay increases weighted in favour of the lower and middle income earners while protective provisions were maintained. Overtime rates, twilight shift premiums and the tool allowance are restored while a mechanism has been secured to deal with the additional unpaid hours.
A bargaining fund has also been established.
While modest, progress was made on our members’ key objectives, particularly with the restoration of the additional cuts (overtime and premiums ) and the process to deal with the additional hours.
The bargaining fund will present a pathway to enable unions and bargaining units commence some of this work.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the timing and process of negotiations of this agreement were not normal.
Communications and consultations with members were different and difficult at times but judging by the tens of thousands who took part in both the consultation process and the postal ballot, the process clearly worked.
The vote was an overwhelming 91% in favour of the proposals.
Union negotiators will take this mandate to the next meeting of the ICTU Public Service Committee where the votes of all public service unions will be aggregated.
If accepted, it is vitally important that we work together to ensure that the benefits of the agreement and its protective clauses are maximised to greatest possible extent for the benefit of SIPTU members.
This is a short, two year agreement and we hope to be back in talks within 18 months with new proposals to advance pay and conditions in the public service.
Hopefully, they will take place in a non-Covid environment and an improved economic landscape.
SIPTU members in the public service have voted by a resounding majority to accept the proposals in Building Momentum, a New Public Service Agreement.
Following a count of ballots in Liberty Hall today (Thursday, 11th February), 91% of votes were in favour of the proposals.
The two year agreement provides for pay increases, a commitment to reduce working hours, protections on public service outsourcing and the restoration of overtime rates and twilight premiums for workers in the health service.
Announcing the result, SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, John King, said: “Despite the challenges presented by Covid-19 in the organisation of the ballot coupled with the necessary public health restrictions, tens of thousands of our members engaged in the consultation process across various online formats. The postal vote of the membership is reflective of this level of engagement by the Union’s public service membership.
“SIPTU representatives will now take this mandate to the next meeting of the ICTU Public Service Committee where the results of ballots by all unions across the public service will be aggregated to determine the final outcome.”
SIPTU members were incensed by the omission of SIPTU Health representatives from the Oireachtas Health Committee today (Tuesday, 9th February) where the situation of Covid-19 frontline health workers was discussed and debated.
SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “The reality is that Covid-19 has not been selective in whom it infects. However, it appears that the Committee has been selective in the submissions they sought and heard. Some 70% of those infected workers had no voice at the proceedings.”
“As has been widely reported, health care workers in Ireland have suffered greatly as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. There is a total of 24,250 confirmed cases of Covid-19 infections of health care workers with the vast majority of those working in support grades particularly those working as Health Care Assistants. Health Care Assistants were recently deemed to be the most at risk in a seroprevalence study examining the levels of anti-body evidence of Covid-19 infection among healthcare workers at St James’s Hospital in Dublin and University Hospital Galway (UHG).
“For these unsung heroes not to have their voice heard in our national parliament is absolutely disgraceful and sadly suggests that workers are not all in this together. While it is right that the voices of nurses and doctors are heard, the health service is a multi-disciplinary team. Our members are going through the same fears and anxieties over the roll out of the vaccine, the same pressures on staffing levels and the same realities as all other workers in the health service.”
He added: “SIPTU members are calling on the Committee to rectify this glaring oversight and to acknowledge the essential contribution of all SIPTU members working in our health service, as a matter of urgency.”