SIPTU’s Health Division is supporting a HSE and Irish Hospice Foundation campaign aimed at supporting all healthcare workers experiencing grief, bereavement, and loss.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused a new and difficult experience for many healthcare workers who may have been exposed to more death, illness, and distress than usual in the workplace. The campaign notes that healthcare workers are an important consideration for bereavement supports as numerous facets of their work, such as exposure to deaths of patients and colleagues, can make them vulnerable to cumulative grief. It also acknowledges that prolonged exposure to loss can lead to physical and psychological burnout.
Research suggests that a supportive and understanding workplace environment can help those dealing with bereavement in the workplace. This campaign is also encouraging senior managers to be particularly aware of the impact of grief on employees and how they can support their staff with personal and professional grief.
HSE workers are reminded that the HSE Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is available on 0818 327 327 if they need to speak to someone who can help. This is a free and confidential service.
Healthcare workers outside of the HSE can use their own EAP service, if available, or call the IHF Bereavement Support Line on 1800 80 70 77 (Monday to Friday, from 10am to 1pm) for support.
SIPTU National Executive Council Statement On The WRC Proposals On The Review Of ‘Building Momentum’ Public Service Agreement
The National Executive Council (NEC) of SIPTU met on Monday, 5th September 2022, to consider the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) proposals on the review of the pay provisions of the Public Service Agreement, Building Momentum.
SIPTU, along with colleague trade unions in the Public Services Committee of the ICTU, invoked the review clause of the Agreement arising from the cost of living and inflation crisis.
The NEC, having considered the details of the proposals, decided that they should be put to a ballot of SIPTU members in the Public Service and Section 38 Agencies with a recommendation for acceptance.
The WRC proposals issued in respect of the Review, when taken with the existing measures of Building Momentum, are structured in a manner that is consistent with previous public service agreements which prioritised the position of lower and middle-income earners.
The NEC also noted the position of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform that economy-wide cost of living measures would accompany pay improvements. These measures will be addressed in Budget 2023 and through the Labour Employer Economic Forum which is to meet in September 2022.
If these proposals are accepted, it will extend the current Public Service Agreement until the end of December 2023. Negotiations on a successor Agreement for 2024 and beyond will likely take place during the Summer of 2023.
Accordingly, the SIPTU National Executive Council recommends acceptance of these proposals in a secret ballot vote to be held over the period from Monday, 12th September to Wednesday 5th October, 2022.
In March 2022 the Public Service Unions of the ICTU (PSC) invoked the Review clause in Building Momentum because of high and sustained inflation, which was not anticipated when the agreement was negotiated in late 2020.
On 30th August 2022, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) published proposals for a public service pay package aimed at resolving differences on pay between public service unions and the Government.
The PSC met and agreed that individual unions should consult and ballot their members on the proposals. The PSC will meet again on 7th October 2022 to make a collective decision on whether to accept or reject the package.
What are the pay proposals being balloted on now?
The package would make the following pay adjustments:
• 3% with effect from 2nd February 2022
• 2% with effect from 1st March 2023
• 1.5% or €750 a year (whichever is the greater) with effect from 1st October 2023. The €750 a year floor means those on lower incomes will receive a larger percentage increase than higher paid staff (see below).
Is this in addition to existing Building Momentum pay adjustments?
Yes. The WRC-proposed increased would come on top of those paid and scheduled under the original Building Momentum agreement.
• 1% or €500 a year (whichever is the greater) from 1st October 2021. This floor of €500 provided higher percentage increases to workers on lower incomes.
• The equivalent of 1% increase through sectoral bargaining from 1st February 2022. This fund was used as a general pay round (PAC Division) and to address long-standing claims with the Health Division.
• 1% or €500 a year (whichever is the greater) from 1st October 2022. Again, the €500 floor means those on lower incomes will receive a larger percentage increase than higher paid staff (see below).
How do lower paid workers benefit more?
In percentage terms, the package is worth an additional 6.5% between February 2022 and December 2023, on top of existing Building Momentum pay adjustments.
But the cash floor of €750 (in October 2023) means a higher percentage increase for workers who earn below €50,000. This includes special needs assistants, most clerical staff, and general operatives.
For example, the salary level of a person earning €25,000 a year would increase by 8% and the salary level of a person earning €37,500 would increase by 7%.
These measures when taken in conjunction with the provisions of Building Momentum provide significant increases to workers on lower incomes.
When would I receive the 3% increase due in February 2022?
If the package is accepted, the first additional increase of 3% will be backdated to 2nd February 2022. This would appear in pay packets as a ‘lump sum’ back-payment after the agreement is ratified. This would likely be in November or December 2022.
Are there additional non-pay elements to the package?
While there are no additional non-pay elements in this specific package, the Government came to the negotiations promising that economy-wide cost-of-living supports would accompany any pay improvements. These are expected to come through the 2023 Budget announcement (scheduled for 27th September 2022) and the Labour-Employer Economic Forum (LEEF), which is Ireland’s main national forum for social dialogue between unions, employers and Government.
Does the WRC package affect sectoral bargaining under Building Momentum?
No. The ‘sectoral bargaining fund’ established under the original Building Momentum agreement is not affected by the WRC proposals. Groups of public servants that opted to use this 1% fund to address outstanding adjudications, recommendations, awards and claims relevant to specific grades, groups or categories of workers will continue to do so. Groups that opted to use the allocation as a straight 1% payment have either received it, or are due to receive it with effect from 1st February 2022.
Do the pay improvements apply to allowances?
The increases would apply to pensionable allowances and the higher hourly rates will also benefit through recently-restored overtime/on call allowances.
What about part-time workers, job-sharers, etc?
If the proposed agreement is accepted, pay adjustments will be delivered through revised pay scales. Part-time workers and others who don’t work full-time hours will get pro-rata adjustments based on the number of hours they work.
Who would the package apply to?
The package would apply to workers currently covered by the Building Momentum agreement, including staff directly employed in the civil or public service, staff in ‘section 38’ agencies, and staff in Non-Commercial State Agencies.
Are there any productivity measures in the package?
There are no additional productivity measures in the WRC-proposed package. It reaffirms the measures in the original Building Momentum agreement.
What is the duration of the WRC-proposed package?
The package would extend the duration of Building Momentum by one year, so that it would expire on 31st December 2023. Unions would expect to be in negotiations on a successor agreement around the middle of next year.
How would this affect public service pensioners?
Under public service agreements, increases in public service pay scales are generally reflected in public service pensions that are linked to pay scales. The PSC has written to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform seeking confirmation that, if accepted, this will apply to the WRC-proposed package in the usual way.
How will a decision on accepting or rejecting the package be reached?
Individual ICTU-affiliated unions representing public servants are now consulting with their members and arranging ballots. The unions will meet again to take a collective decision on whether to accept or reject the package on Friday 7th October. Voting at that meeting will be weighted to reflect the number of public servants that each union represents.
What about planned industrial action ballots?
The ICTU Public Services Committee (which represents most unions in the sector) has recommended that planned industrial action ballots be suspended while unions consult on the WRC package.
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) this morning (Tuesday) proposed a public service pay package aimed at resolving differences between public service unions and Government officials following over 19 hours of talks. The ICTU Public Services Committee (PSC) subsequently met to consider the proposal at 10.00am today.
The package would see pay increases of 3% with effect from 2nd February 2022, 2% from 1st March 2023 and 1.5% or €750 (whichever is the greater) from 1st October 2023. This is in addition to 1% or €500, whichever is greater, due at the beginning of October 2022.
The minimum payment of €750 a year from next October means the package would be worth 8% to a worker earning €25,000 a year and 7% to a person on €37,500 a year.
This morning’s PSC meeting decided that individual unions should now consult members, through ballots and other means, on the package in advance of a collective decision on whether to accept or reject the package. This will take place at a further PSC meeting on Friday 7th October, where voting will be weighted to reflect the number of public servants that each union represents.
PSC chairperson Kevin Callinan said he believed the outcome of this long process was the best that could currently be achieved through negotiations.
“We’ll now be explaining this package to union members, who will have the final say in ballots. Neither side has achieved all it sought, but this package is a significant improvement on the pay terms of Building Momentum, and it is worth more to those who need it most. This underlines the importance of the unions’ decision to invoke the review clause in the current agreement.
“Over the past weeks, Minister McGrath and his Government colleagues have repeatedly promised to supplement pay measures with other cost-of-living supports through the Labour-Employer Economic Forum (LEEF) process and the forthcoming Budget. Workers will now expect delivery on that promise. A Government failure to deliver will certainly impact the ballots that will shortly get underway,” he said.
PSC secretary John King said the PSC was also recommending that planned industrial action ballots be suspended while unions consult on the WRC package.
The pay talks resumed at noon yesterday (29th August) after a ten-week hiatus during which the Government said it was reflecting on its position. Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath said his revised offer was final, although union negotiators held out for an improved sum for lower paid public servants.
The total 2022-2023 increases due under the WRC-proposed package would be:
1) 2nd February 2022 3%
2) 1st October 2022 1% or €500 a year (whichever is the greater). Note, this was agreed under the original Building Momentum agreement
3) 1st March 2023 2%
4) 1st October 2023 1.5% or €750 (whichever is the greater).
These are in addition to Building Momentum increases of 1% or €500 a year (whichever is greater in October 2021, plus a sectoral bargaining fund worth 1% of annualised basic pay from 1st February 2022.
John King also said that the Union would holding a meeting of its National Executive Council as part of a process to commence consultations with members immediately, in advance of commencing a ballot vote for acceptance or rejection of the proposal’s.
SIPTU Officials representing members in the Health, Local Government, Education and State-Related Sectors attended a meeting in Liberty Hall on Wednesday, 24th August. At this meeting they were updated on the union’s Public Service Pay Campaign and considered the invitation from the Workplace Relations Commission to attend a resumption of talks on Public Service pay beginning next Monday, 29th August.
Following the meeting, SIPTU Deputy General Secretary and Secretary of the Public Services Committee of Congress, John King, said that union representatives will attend the upcoming talks as part of the ICTU delegation. He said the focus of these talks will be to conclude a review of the pay terms of the ‘Building Momentum’ Public Service Pay Agreement, which has been sought by SIPTU and other unions since March 2022.
SIPTU, as part of the Public Services Committee of ICTU, is currently consulting with its members and preparing for ballots on industrial and strike action. This is part of a campaign to secure a review of the pay terms of the ‘Building Momentum’ agreement which adequately compensate workers for the loss in the value of their earnings which has accrued due to the cost of living crisis and high rate of inflation.
King said the consultation process with SIPTU members in the Public Service will continue and in the absence of a successful outcome to the talks, which are recommencing on Monday, that the union will begin balloting members on industrial and strike action in early September.
SIPTU organisers in the public service representing members in the Health, Local Authority, Education and State sectors, are today commencing a consultation exercise with its members in advance of ballots for industrial action over pay later in August.
SIPTU Deputy General Secretary John King said: “Balloting for industrial action will begin on 29th August if there is no successful outcome to the talks on a review of the ‘Building Momentum’ agreement. The Workplace Relations Commission has invited the Public Service Committee of Congress to talks but the government side has said that it is not in a position to attend until the end of the month. While we have welcomed the invitation, we intend to continue the consultation process with our members and, in the absence of a set of proposals that can be put to our members, the ballots for industrial action will commence.”
The Public Services Committee of Congress invoked the provisions of the review clause in ‘Building Momentum’ on 11th March, 2022 when inflation was at 5.6% and when it was clear that the modest terms of the public service agreement, concluded in January 2021, were being completely eroded by the dramatic increase in the cost of living for workers. With inflation now running at 9.1%, union members are becoming increasingly frustrated at the Government’s failure to conclude an acceptable review of the pay terms of the Agreement.
SIPTU public service members to prepare for industrial action over Government failure to review Agreement
SIPTU members across the public service will commence a consultation exercise in advance of ballots for industrial action over the failure of the Government to conclude an acceptable review of the pay provisions of the ‘Building Momentum’ Public Service Agreement. The consultation will involve union members and activists in the health service, local government, education and the State sectors in the coming weeks.
SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, John King, said that by refusing to re-engage with the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to deal with escalation in the cost of living, the Government is in breach of the terms of the current Agreement.
John King said: “The Public Services Committee of Congress invoked the provisions of the review clause on the 11th March 2022 when inflation was at 5.6% and when it was clear that the modest terms of the Agreement, concluded in January 2021, were being completely eroded by the dramatic increase in the cost of living for workers. With inflation now running at 9.1%, the Government’s failure to re-engage at the WRC is no longer tenable.”
He added: “Talks at the WRC were deferred on 17th June when the Government side claimed it needed time to reflect. With the Dáil now in recess until early to mid-September, it is clear that it is not prepared to engage in meaningful discussions on the cost of living crisis. In these circumstances, we are now left with no alternative other than to ballot our members in order to protect their standard of living.”
SIPTU, and fellow health unions, are continuing to argue for a replacement scheme to Special Leave with Pay that better protects healthcare workers whose health has been impacted by Covid 19.
Following the decision to restrict the Special Leave with Pay scheme from the 30th of June 2022 to only include Government recommended isolation periods, SIPTU has sought to negotiate a new scheme for healthcare workers who cannot attend work due to a confirmed COVID infection. To date, the HSE and Department of Health has refused to negotiate on a new scheme but instead sought to impose a temporary replacement scheme on the health service.
It is understood that the terms of the replacement scheme have been issued within the HSE. There are several concerns regarding the replacement scheme, including the fact that it only covers a period of 12 months up to the 30th of June 2023 and that it will only cover healthcare workers in certain settings.
SIPTU has raised the fact that Long COVID has been confirmed as an Occupational Disease by the EU Advisory Body on Safety and Health at Work. The Union has also raised a recent case in Scotland in which Long COVID was confirmed as a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 by the Scottish Employment Tribunal.
SIPTU has argued the need for this dispute to be referred to the Workplace Relations Commission. The HSE and Department of Health are resisting those efforts. They have stated they will publish the circular to allow those covered by it to get the new payments, instead of sick leave, as soon as possible. SIPTU has advised the employers they are doing so without agreement as the Union claim remains to secure a new scheme fitting of all healthcare workers who require it.
SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said “SIPTU’s priority is ensuring that any replacement scheme to Special Leave with Pay will take account of the risks posed by Covid 19 to healthcare workers performing their duties. Health unions have sought to negotiate a new scheme for healthcare workers who cannot attend work due to a confirmed COVID infection. It is our view that the appropriate forum in which to have these discussions is at the Workplace Relations Commission. Unfortunately, the HSE and Department of Health has delayed engaging with us in such a forum. It is important to note that the withdrawal of Special Leave with Pay, and its replacement by an inferior scheme, has taken place at a time in which the World Health Organization’s European office has warned of a “challenging” autumn and winter due to a rise in Covid-19 cases in the region.”
Public service union negotiators have today (Friday) recommended a coordinated union campaign on public service pay, supported by industrial action ballots, to address the impact of soaring inflation on low and middle earners. They also said they were no longer prepared to discuss an extension of the Building Momentum agreement, to cover pay in 2023, until improved terms for 2021-2022 are agreed.
In a letter to members of ICTU’s Public Services Committee (PSC), the PSC’s lead negotiators said they had now concluded that the Government was breaching the current public service pay agreement by failing to conclude a review of the Building Momentum pay terms. The review clause was triggered over four months ago.
Their letter to PSC affiliates, who collectively represent over 90% of Ireland’s public servants, said:
“The PSC invoked the Building Momentum review clause on 11th March, when inflation was 5.6%. We did this with the objective of significantly improving the pay element of the agreement, taking account of higher-than-expected inflation in both 2021 and 2022.
“The Government eventually responded in May, when inflation had reached 7%. Subsequent talks in the Workplace Relations Commission ended without agreement on 17th June, by which time inflation had hit 7.8%.
“Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) officials subsequently told the WRC that the Government needed more time to reflect on its position and four weeks later – with inflation at 9.1% – they are still reflecting. Meanwhile, the Dáíl has gone into recess and will not resume until 14th September, less than two weeks before the Budget.
“The Government administration is now effectively winding down until mid-September, leaving low and middle-income public servants with the prospect of another two months of uncertainty. In our view, the Government’s attitude towards its staff is bordering on contempt.
“Given its continued foot-dragging, it seems clear that the Government does not intend to conclude the review of Building Momentum.
“On this basis, we have told the WRC that we are no longer in a position to continue discussions on an extension of Building Momentum, to cover pay in 2023, until the review of Building Momentum is satisfactorily concluded. If there is no extension in place before the current agreement expires at the end of December, we will have to submit pay claims for next year.
“We are also recommending a coordinated union campaign, supported by industrial action ballots, to achieve a credible pay offer for 2021-2022 for public servants who, in common with workers across the economy, are bearing the full brunt of large and sustained increases in the cost of home heating, fuel, food, housing, childcare, and many other essentials. We recommend that unions begin practical arrangements for balloting, to begin next month, pending a meeting of the Public Services Committee to coordinate the campaign.
“You will recall that the pay talks ended without agreement in mid-June after the Government offered an additional increase of just 2.5% for the 2021-2022 period of the current agreement. This is clearly inadequate when inflation now seems likely to be over 10% in that period.”
The unions say their members are increasingly frustrated at the delay in the process, coupled with mixed messages coming from the most senior Government sources.
While the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has talked down prospects of an improved Government offer, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar last month said the Government was prepared to make “a further offer.” This week, Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the Dáil that the Government wanted to reach a public service pay agreement prior to the Budget, which would include “parallel” measures to ease cost-of-living pressures.
The ICTU PSC officers are Kevin Callinan (chair) John King (secretary), Phil Ni Sheaghdha (vice chair) and John Boyle (vice chair).