SIPTU representatives have today (Sunday, 17th January) said the lack of consultation surrounding the decision by health minister, Stephen Donnelly, to suspend student placements will only deepen the serious crisis in the health service.
SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “SIPTU representatives have been inundated with calls from members who received calls late last night informing them that their placement was suspended.
They expressed their frustration over this sudden change in policy and the potential impact it will have on the provision of essential health care. Members are furious over the stunning lack of proper consultation and say this decision will only deepen the crisis in the health service for students and health care staff working on the frontline. Students are rightly worried about their status and how this decision will impact on their training. They and other health workers across the service are also deeply concerned about the ramifications this may have on patient care.”
He added: “SIPTU representatives have for weeks been demanding that all students on clinical placements throughout the Covid-19 crisis including nurses, midwives and radiographers are recognised and paid for their essential, frontline work.”
SIPTU Health representatives have today (Friday, 15th January) said the Covid-19 infection rates of health care workers are unsustainable and putting the safe functioning of the health service in grave danger.
SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “Over 5,000 health workers have been infected with Covid-19 since Christmas. Four out of five infected are women and workers in support grades including Health Care Assistants, porters, catering assistants and home care workers are in the majority of those infected. This level of infection is completely unsustainable.
“Health workers across all grades are being decimated while this virus is raging out of control across our health service. It is clear that health care workers are not safe in work and the current rate of infection is putting the safe functioning of the service in grave danger. We are again calling for the immediate recruitment of additional and essential staff to assist all health workers on the frontline.”
He added: “While this data is alarming and a cause of real concern for our members its publication is to be welcomed. It provides public health officials and union representatives with an opportunity to map out realistic solutions and stronger workplace protections for all.”
SIPTU representatives have expressed concern that issues of bed capacity and overcrowding in hospital emergency departments (EDs) will continue to affect the work of the National Ambulance Service. They have called on the HSE to immediately fast track the recruitment of thousands of additional staff as a matter of urgency in the fight against Covid-19.
SIPTU Organiser, Ciaran Sheridan, said: “SIPTU members at Letterkenny University Hospital have reported that the situation in relation to delays to the admission of sick patients has slightly improved. However, there are concerns that the distressing scenes witnessed last Sunday will be repeated. In attempts to ensure availability of emergency ambulances we have sought details regarding resilience measures and the provision of additional resources to prevent, or alleviate, further delays.”
Don Brennan, an Advanced Paramedic and SIPTU Shop Steward said: “We are pre-hospital practitioners and to be parked up outside an ED providing care presents new challenges for us. It is not conducive to optimum patient care and increases the difficulties in providing an acceptable level of comfort.”
SIPTU Ambulance Sector Organiser, Miriam Hamilton, said that the issue of delays in handing over patients at hospitals is not new.
“SIPTU members have previously demanded the introduction of an emergency hand-over protocol to assist ambulance crews who are unable to deliver patients to hospital staff due to overcrowding and lack of bed capacity. The lack of capacity in receiving hospitals is preventing our members in the NAS from doing their jobs. Trained ambulance professionals with highly equipped vehicles are sitting outside hospitals when we need them to be available to respond to emergencies in our communities,” she said.
SIPTU representatives have today (Friday, 8th January) urged the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, to immediately intervene and remove any roadblocks to health service recruitment as part of an emergency effort to address the unsustainable staffing crisis that is spreading right across the health service.
SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “The current stress on our health services is completely unsustainable. Patient numbers are rising while staffing levels are falling. The Minister must act now and make sure recruitment is fast tracked to ensure health workers are supported in this hour of national emergency.”
“The reality is that health staff shortages are everywhere. They are all across the board in acute settings, mental health services, care in the community and the National Ambulance Service, no area of care hasn’t been severely impacted upon in recent days from Covid-19 infections, symptoms or the challenges health workers are facing attending work due to care commitments.
“There is a growing, distinct and deep frustration from our members that despite the fanfare, the Government, the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive (HSE) have not moved quick enough to recruit at least some of the 16,000 additional health workers they pledged as part of an additional €4 billion for the health service in Budget 2021.”
He added: “Over recent weeks, and as the spread of the virus has intensified, our members have also been left in the dark over how many health care workers have tested positive for Covid-19. The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) were producing weekly reports to give health workers and their representatives a fuller understanding of the infection rates in essential health settings but since Wednesday 23rd December there has been unacceptable silence. We would ask that the Minister would also rectify this as a matter of urgency.”
SIPTU Health representatives have today (Saturday, 2nd January) called on the management of the Health Service Executive (HSE) to guarantee proper supports are immediately put in place to assist health workers with childcare commitments reporting for work when schools and pre-school services are closed across the country next week.
SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “The decision to keep schools and pre-school services closed until Monday 11th January has created considerable uncertainty for workers and poses a significant challenge for our members working on the frontline of our hospitals, nursing homes and communities.
“As we enter the next critical phase of the pandemic and with transmission rates soaring, it is essential that the health service has all hands on deck.
Over the last number of days, SIPTU Health representatives have worked with colleagues on the staff panel of unions to get a guarantee from the health service employers that arrangements are put in place to make sure all health workers with childcare commitments are fully supported in the weeks ahead.”
He added: “From the very start of this pandemic and through each lockdown health care workers have made every effort to have childcare arrangements in place enabling them to keep our health service going. The reality is that the decision to close these facilities has far reaching consequences for working parents in the health service. The employer has an obligation to make sure that this essential workforce can get to work and make sure our health service can cope with any potential surge in hospital admissions next week.”
The National Executive Council (NEC) of SIPTU met today (Thursday, 17th December) to consider the proposals for an agreement on pay and related matters in the public service.
Having considered the details of the proposals it was decided to recommend them for acceptance by the union’s public service membership.
It was concluded that they represent reasonable progress towards the objective of advancing pay and recovering austerity measures imposed under the Haddington Road Agreement, namely restoration of overtime rates, premium payments and working time.
The current proposals in ‘Building Momentum 2021 – A New Public Service Agreement’ are structured in a manner that is consistent with the commitments and achievements of previous agreements which prioritise the position of lower and middle-income earners in the public service.
Significantly, the proposals also retain the essential protections necessary to defend against the unilateral outsourcing of public service jobs and they provide for the creation of a sectoral bargaining fund as a mechanism to address a range of other issues.
If the proposal is accepted by SIPTU members in the public service, it is intended that negotiations on a successor agreement will take place during the early summer of 2022.
Accordingly, the National Executive Council of the union recommends acceptance in a secret ballot vote to be completed by Wednesday, 10th February 2021. The ballot will be conducted from mid-January 2021, following a period of extensive membership consultation and informed engagement with the membership on the content of the proposed agreement.
Representatives of public service unions and employers have agreed proposals for a two-year agreement to succeed the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA), which expires at the end of this month. The main elements of the proposed agreement were outlined by union negotiators at a meeting of the ICTU Public Services Committee (PSC) today (Friday) after negotiations at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) concluded in the early hours of this morning.
The team of four ICTU negotiators told the meeting that Building Momentum: A New Public Sector Agreement represented a positive short-term package, negotiated against a difficult background, to build on the momentum of recent pay restoration and public service flexibility and service quality.
They said the package, which would run from 1st January 2021 until 31st December 2022 if ratified, was substantially weighted towards lower-income civil and public servants, and had achieved solid progress on the three priorities set by the PSC at the outset of the talks. These were (1) a mechanism to address issues outstanding from the Haddington Road agreement, (2) a separate mechanism to address sectoral issues, and (3) a realistic and acceptable approach to pay.
Each of the public service unions affiliated to ICTU, which represents over 90% of public servants, will now give the proposals detailed consideration before putting the package to their members.
The main features of the proposals 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 1st October 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.
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.
- A resolution of 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.
- 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.
- The proposals outline how the ‘sectoral bargaining fund’ would operate, including an implementation process and compliance with “the maintenance of industrial peace.”
Maintaining the momentum for reform
- The proposals acknowledge 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 services, ensuring that schools remain open and 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.
- The package sets out measures to harness the potential for technology to improve service delivery.
- The package sets out 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.
- The package sets out 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.
- There is provision to review the terms of the agreement “where the underlying assumptions of the agreement need to be revisited.”
Speaking after this morning’s meeting, the chair of the PSC, Kevin Callinan, said the proposals were the best outcome that could be achieved over the relatively short lifetime of the proposed deal.
“This agreement builds on recent momentum to improve our public services and the lives of those who depend on and deliver them. 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.
“The ICTU team has also achieved a process to address sectoral issues, and a separate mechanism that will make real and substantial progress on the issues outstanding from the Haddington Road agreement, including its introduction of longer working hours that fell most heavily on women workers,” he said.
The PSC represents all ICTU-affiliated unions with members working in the civil and public service. Its officers, and lead negotiators, are Fórsa General Secretary Kevin Callinan, SIPTU Deputy General Secretary John King, INMO General Secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha, and INTO General Secretary John Boyle.
The PSC is to meet again early next week to consider the detail of the proposals. Each of the PSC unions is then expected to consult their members on the package.
SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, John King, also welcomed the proposals which will be considered by the National Executive Council (NEC) of the union and then go to a secret, postal ballot of all members in the public service.
“Following three weeks of negotiation, we have emerged with a set of proposals that we believe is the best that can be achieved for our members in the current circumstances. In particular, they continue the process of income progression for the lower paid and middle income workers in the public service and the return of hours removed under previous agreements. The detailed proposals will now be considered by the NEC of SIPTU before it goes to a postal ballot of members,” he said.
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.
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.