On behalf of our members, staff and activists I want wish you a happy Christmas and a prosperous new year.
Living and working with Covid throughout 2021 has challenged all of us and tested our health service to the absolute limit. That is why our Division has been entirely focused on supporting our members throughout this crisis and working with them to make sure there are brighter days ahead in 2022.
Between Thursday, 23rd December and Tuesday, 4th January, physical access to SIPTU offices will be limited due to public health restrictions. If anything urgent arises please contact your local representative or your union official.
Alternatively, you can email your query directly to the SIPTU Health Division HERE and a member of our team will get back to you as soon as we can. In the meantime, you can keep up with any important developments on the SIPTU Health App.
Once again thank you for your continued support and for taking the time to read our membership updates throughout 2021, Enjoy the festivities and stay safe.
Pictured: Temple Street’s Hospital Head Porter John Doyle and SIPTU member with Forsa members at the annual toy donation for Children’s Health Ireland
A sectoral bargaining process is underway across the public service with a fund available to pay claims of 1% of basic pensionable pay during the lifetime of the Building Momentum Agreement.
SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “This fund will also deal with outstanding adjudications, recommendations and awards. This part of the agreement is being negotiated by Sectoral Bargaining Units. This process is currently underway and payments are due from 1st February 2022. Negotiations for a new public service agreement will start in the summer of 2022.
“Last October, SIPTU members received a 1% pay increase, or €500 a year boost in wages, whichever is the greater. This means that all public sector workers on lower incomes will receive a significantly larger percentage increase than higher paid staff.”
He added: “Substantial protective provisions were also copper fastened by Building Momentum and with the uncertainty the pandemic has brought about these measures are needed now more than ever. Overtime rates, and twilight shift premiums were also restored while a mechanism has been secured to deal with the additional unpaid hours worked by our members.”
SIPTU members working in St Patrick’s Mental Health Services (SPMHS) have today (Friday, 17th December) overwhelmingly endorsed pay proposals to improve pay and conditions at the facility.
The two year agreement negotiated between SIPTU and SPMHS management provides for an increase in pay worth up to 4%, with enhanced workplace protections until 2023.
SIPTU Health Organiser, Aideen Carberry, said: “It has been several years since our members have enjoyed real increases in pay at St. Patrick’s Mental Health Services. The reality is that our members have demonstrated extraordinary flexibility during the Covid-19 crisis and deserve this boost in earnings. Day in, day out they are on the frontline of mental health services delivering quality care to clients. We now look forward to future engagements with SPMHS to continuously improve the terms and conditions of our members that reflect their skills, commitment and dedication to the people they care for.”
SIPTU representatives have today (Wednesday, 15th December) expressed deep concerns over the high level of pressure on ambulance, fire and emergency services across the country.
Speaking at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health, SIPTU Ambulance Sector Organiser, Ted Kenny said: “In order for a proper discussion to take place on the resources required for the State’s ambulance services, it is an absolute imperative that the recommendations of the NAS Capacity Review and any future reviews are fully resourced and implemented.”
We also raised the issues affecting our members in regard to meal breaks, extended duty and traveling large distances out of their geographical areas. The reality is 2000 staff and 100 new ambulances are needed to address the shortfalls along with an education program aimed at GP’s and the wider community on what the appropriate call to the ambulance service should be to help elevate the A&E waiting times.”
SIPTU Industrial Organiser for Dublin Fire Brigade, Geoff McEvoy, said: “The huge advances made by our members from the ground up are testament to our credibility in the area of improving the ambulance and fire based EMS service through the development of ambulance and fire personnel and services. However, a chronic shortage in both personnel and resources is adding significantly to the pressures on the service.”
Union members working in the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, based in Dublin 2, have accepted new pay proposals by an overwhelming majority.
Members of SIPTU and the Irish Federation of University Teachers were balloted during November and voted by an overwhelming majority to accept an agreement, negotiated between management and their local union representatives which will run until September 2024.
The deal provides for an annual 2.5% increase on basic pay for all staff earning less than €100,000 with a minimum payment of €1,500 in the first year. The first phase of the increases, which is retrospective to 1st October 2021, will be paid this month.
SIPTU Organiser, Aideen Carberry, said: “This new three-year agreement guarantees our RCSI members increases in pay and job security. The fact that this agreement was reached locally is a testament to the resolve of union representatives to work collectively for the benefit of all members in the workplace.”
SIPTU Organiser, Cathie Shiels, said: “The results of this agreement speak for themselves and make clear the value of trade union membership.”
n Last Friday (26th November) Guidance and FAQs on working arrangements and temporary assignments for the civil and public service was updated by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
Last week, a decision was taken by the Government to introduce new rules which required people who had a Covid-19 close contact living in their household to stay at home for 5 days and undertake 3 antigen tests during that time. Following that decision, the HSE publicly announced its intention to seek a derogation of all HCWs.
SIPTU, FORSA and INMO representatives made public statements outlining our opposition to any attempt to exempt our members from public health guidance. This position was supported given the high level of HCW infection.
On foot of this intervention, there were several meetings at national level with senior clinicians, HSE management and union lead officials over the last number of days. Arising from these discussions and negotiations an updated policy has been developed.
The updated policy for fully vaccinated HCWs confirms:
- The default position remains that fully vaccinated HCWs should adhere to public health guidance including the requirement to stay at home for 5 days and undertake 3 antigen tests (one completed every second day) during that time.
- This is the same advice as members of the general public. The antigen tests will be sent out by public health when contacted. The HSE has confirmed the employer must provide work from home for a fully vaccinated HCW who is isolating in line with public health guidance.
- If the HSE contend there is a serious risk to service if a HCW does not present for work, a process for derogation of that HCW may be sought within this agreed policy.
- The derogation request will only apply to the individual HCW.
- A request for derogation of a HCW must be undertaken by a senior manager.
For the derogation to be applied, the healthcare worker must agree to the derogation.
- The senior manager must complete the checklist (see Appendix 2 of the policy) in order to make the decision regarding derogation.
- Consideration should be given to the risk to patient safety from absences of essential HCWs. This process should include an assessment of available personnel who can be redeployed within the service. This process may result in there not being a need to derogate a HCW who is a close contact of a household confirmed case.
- The senior manager must ensure all practical efforts have been made to recruit alternative HCWs with the necessary skills and experience.
- The senior manager must ensure there is a discussion with the HCW regarding the reason derogation is necessary.
- The senior manager must note a risk assessment may be necessary to minimize the risk created by the HCW attending work
Any asymptomatic fully vaccinated HCWs who agree to a derogation request will have to have 1 clear antigen test before returning to work. They will be required to maintain antigen testing every second day until they have 3 negative test results. They will also be monitored with a temperature check twice daily following their return.
Should a HCW agree to a derogation request, they will also be required to adhere to public health guidance outside of their working hours.
Union representatives believe this robust process is the best that can achieved considering the level of extreme stress on our health service at this time. The process ensures our members will have a say in whether they wish to return to the workplace or maintain the public health guidance of restricting their movement for 5 days.
All HCWs remain under strict instructions to self-isolate and arrange PCR testing should they become symptomatic, or they have a positive antigen test result. The HCWs must also resume the restricted movement when not in the healthcare facility for work.
Following the announcement by HSE Chief Executive Officer, Paul Reid, that he is seeking a derogation for healthcare workers to be exempt from the new five-day rule to self-isolate if a member of their household becomes infected with COVID-19, the National Joint Council group of healthcare unions have written to the HSE opposing this plan.
“Healthcare unions – the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, SIPTU and Fórsa are strongly opposed to the comments made by HSE CEO, Paul Reid at a press conference earlier today where he stated that he will be seeking a derogation to exempt healthcare workers from the new five-day isolation rule.
In the letter the officers of the National Joint Council said:
“We cannot repeat the mistakes of previous derogations that allowed healthcare workers to be exempt from public health advice. We know in the past that allowing healthcare workers to be exempt we saw infections spike among healthcare workers and patients, particularly when it came to the care of older people.
“Healthcare workers should not be treated differently in terms of public health advice. The HSE and Government need to take the concerns of patient-facing staff seriously. We cannot have a situation where the highest cohort of workers who are dealing with unvaccinated patients and working in environments with poor ventilation like many of our healthcare settings, are putting their colleagues and loved ones at further risk.
“The derogation that the CEO of the HSE is seeking will not help to prevent the spread of the disease.
“As representatives of healthcare workers, we want to make it clear to the Health Service Executive, Taoiseach and Minister for Health that our members will not accept this. We are already seeing over 4,500 healthcare workers out of work because of this virus, we cannot allow a carte blanche decision that is not rooted in public health advice to be made.”
Today (Friday, 29th October) workers, unions and civil society allies around the globe will take action to demand investments and decent work in care.
The annual Global Action Day to #InvestInCare is a joint initiative of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), UNI Global Union, Education International (EI), International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF) Public Services International (PSI), and Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO)
SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser Kevin Figgis, said: “The pandemic has exposed how decades of underinvestment in our health and care systems have severely degraded quality, accessibility, and safety in the sector. Earlier this year, SIPTU members participated in UNI Global Union´s comprehensive survey of care workers and the results were stark. It showed unacceptable levels of staffing shortages, poverty pay, and dangerous conditions in the global care system. In Ireland, the pandemic has shone a light on the value of all our health workers and the challenges we face securing proper funding, safe staffing levels, and the ever-creeping threat of outsourcing.
He added: “Today, we stand with you to say enough is enough. We want accessible and quality care for all with good wages underpinned by the highest safety standards for all our frontline heroes. Nothing less will do.”
“Care workers cannot wait for the next pandemic to hit. They need safe jobs, acceptable staffing ratios, secure hours and family-sustaining pay now,” said Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union. “We say that COVID-19 has changed everything, but many of the problems in care have stayed the same—or gotten worse. It’s time to rebuild the care sector to benefit patients, residents and workers alike,” she continued.
Head of UNI Global Union´s Care sector, Adrian Durtschi, said: “Care workers around the world need urgent action from governments and employers to put life at the centre of care. That means safe jobs and jobs that can sustain a family. On October 29 and beyond we are seeing a broad coalition—workers, investors, patient advocates—come together for change.”
This global day of action will draw attention to the urgent need for a re-investment in universal, equitable, quality, public and gender transformative health and care systems for:
- the creation of decent jobs for women and men in the care sector, including access to vocational and lifelong learning;
- improving pay and working conditions for workers in health, care and education;
- ensuring availability and accessibility by all to quality public health, care and education services;
- stimulating sustainable economic and jobs growth; and
- realising gender equality policies and programmes.