Potentially life-saving initiative for members of the SIPTU Nurses & Midwives Salary Protection Scheme

SIPTU has teamed up with Cornmarket this January to tackle cancer through ‘Pink & Blue Power’, a potentially life-saving breast and prostate health programme for members of the SIPTU Nurses & Midwives Salary Protection Scheme. This salary protection scheme is open to SIPTU Nurses, Midwives, National Ambulance Service personnel and Health Care Assistants in the public service. More information is available here.

The aim of Pink & Blue Power is to increase awareness of the signs and symptoms of breast and prostate cancer, while providing members with vital education, the opportunity for a once-off clinical physical assessment with a GP and a referral for further tests if needed. Women aged 30 to 49 and men aged 40 to 65 in the Scheme will be invited to attend.

Invites will be posted in 2024 in three rollout blocks (alphabetically by first name) as follows:
Rollout 1: posted in January
Rollout 2: posting in May
Rollout 3: posting in July

Places are limited and on a first-come, first served basis so book early to avoid disappointment. The cost of participating is covered by the Scheme.

The Pink & Blue Power programme was launched in response to a high level of cancer claims, and in recognition that 1 in 9 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, while 1 in 7 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer. As we all know awareness and early intervention is crucial. The programme works. In a post programme survey, 92% said they know what to look for when self-checking their breasts compared to only 40% before participating.

This programme can help save lives so if you get an invite, we strongly encourage you to book.
For more, visit cornmarket.ie.

Pink & Blue Power is a benefit of the SIPTU Nurses & Midwives’ Salary Protection Scheme.

Not a member of the Scheme? Visit www.cornmarket.ie/siptu for more on benefits and how to apply.

Workers’ voice must be part of mental health services discussion, SIPTU says

SIPTU, the union representing a broad range of mental health workers, has criticised the Department of Health and the Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler TD, for excluding workers from discussions on the delivery of services.

The criticism comes as the Government outlines its plans for mental health services at a conference entitled ‘Sharing the Vision: Our National Mental Health Policy’ in Dublin Castle today (Tuesday, January 16th).

John McCamley, SIPTU Sector Organiser, said: “It is astonishing that the voice of workers is not part of the discussion on the delivery of mental health services and the implementation of the ‘Sharing the Vision’ policy.

“Our members are at the coalface when it comes to delivering these services. They are a key stakeholder and their insights are indispensable to these discussions.

“Our union has highlighted significant challenges facing the mental health service, including staffing levels in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS). It is a shame that the experience of our members has not been called upon to ensure the delivery of a safe, efficient service for those that depend on it.”

Staff our Services and end the HSE Recruitment Freeze – SIPTU

In the public health sector, dedicated healthcare workers strive daily to provide essential care and support to the nation’s citizens. However, the persistent challenge of understaffing, resulting from the HSE’s decision to implement a recruitment freeze until the end of 2023, threatens the very foundation of our healthcare system. It compromises the quality of the service and places an immense strain on those who tirelessly serve the community. It is critical that enough staff are employed in the Irish public health service, not just so we can provide support to healthcare services, but to ensure we are providing the best possible care to those in our society.

SIPTU has met with HSE CEO Bernard Gloster, as part of the Staff Panel of Unions, to discuss the recruitment freeze. The Union side raised concerns about its potential broader impact on the delivery of care. SIPTU noted that the recruitment freeze will impact patient facing roles such as health care assistants, health care support assistants, support staff, paramedics, and diagnostics. The Union side also conveyed a worry that the recruitment freeze will only add to the challenges that will be faced by staff during the winter season – a period when attendances traditionally increase, and staffing numbers are usually impacted by staff illnesses.

The Union side also noted that the freeze will have a direct and negative impact on the delivery of the HSE’s own objectives and expansion of services. Despite the above points being raised by Unions, the HSE’s position has not changed with regards to the recruitment freeze, to date.

Healthcare is undeniably a human-centric profession, dependent on the dedication and expertise of its workforce. The impact of understaffing is felt acutely by our members on the frontlines. Working extended hours, battling fatigue, and managing overwhelming caseloads, these individuals are the backbone of our healthcare system, and their well-being is intrinsically linked to the quality of care they can provide.

The correlation between staffing levels of all grades within the health service; and the quality of patient care cannot be overstated. Adequate staffing ensures that those working in healthcare can devote sufficient time to each patient, fostering better communication, comprehensive assessments, and personalised treatment plans. By investing in the adequate staffing, the HSE can not only prioritise the health and well-being of patients but also uphold the integrity of our healthcare system.
The toll of understaffing on healthcare workers is profound, both personally and professionally. Long working hours, high-stress environments, and an overwhelming sense of responsibility can lead to burnout and negatively impact mental health. A workforce that feels supported, with manageable workloads and adequate staffing, is better equipped to deliver the high standard of care that the Irish public deserves. Moreover, a satisfied and fulfilled workforce is more likely to stay within the profession, contributing to the stability and continuity of our healthcare system.

The HSE must staff our services; and end the recruitment freeze. A commitment to hiring enough staff is a commitment to the health and well-being of our healthcare workers and our communities.

Health and community workers back WRC pay proposals

The three unions representing workers employed community and voluntary sector agencies, SIPTU, Fórsa and the INMO, have confirmed that members of all three unions have given strong backing to a set of proposals, brokered last month during talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), for an interim agreement on pay for workers in Section 39, 56 and 10 organisations.

The ICTU-led coalition of unions will now request that the WRC reconvene the parties. The WRC proposals led to the suspension of planned indefinite strike action, which had been due to commence in 17 employments across the country in October.

The proposals include pay increases backdated to April 2023, along with commitments to address the funding issues in the sector, providing for the parties to reconvene under the auspices of the WRC no later than 1st December next. The purpose of this engagement will be to agree further adjustments in funding for organisations and their staff that will have regard to the terms of the Building Momentum public service pay agreement and the terms of any successor public pay agreement.

The proposals backed by the unions provide for the following pay adjustments:
• An Increase of 3% from 1st April 2023 (backdated)
• An Increase of 2% from 1st November 2023
• An Increase of 3% from 1st March 2024
The dispute followed years of pay disparity between workers in Section 39 (health and disability services) Section 56 (services to children), Section 10 (homeless services), in community services and their counterparts employed directly by the state.

Because of that pay gap, union research has shown that workers are leaving their jobs – in large numbers – to take better-paid employment elsewhere. The turnover of staff in the sector is around 30% per year. The staffing crisis is adding to recruitment costs and longer waiting lists.

SIPTU acknowledges invitation to public sector pay talks

SIPTU has acknowledged the invitation by Minister for Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, to enter negotiations with the Government on the potential for a new public service pay agreement under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

The union has said that the officers of the Public Services Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) would meet within the next 24 hours to discuss the terms of the invitation.

John King, SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, said: “We have received the Minister’s invitation, and the Public Services Committee officers will meet within the next day to give consideration to his request.

“The officers will have to be satisfied that the invitation to talks provides a basis upon which an agreement could possibly be reached.”

The current public sector pay deal, Building Momentum, is due to expire at the end of the year. At SIPTU’s Biennial Delegate Conference (BDC) in Galway today, King laid out the union’s key priorities for any future talks based on a consultation of SIPTU members.

“Our members value their Public Service Agreement,” King said, “they want to be covered by a collective agreement, but not at any price.

“They want a return to normalised industrial relations across the public service and pay increases which ensure that the value of their pay is not eroded by inflation.

He also said that members would want to maintain the protective clauses in the Public Service Agreement against any form of outsourcing and secure clauses around service delivery which “grow and develop public service jobs and employment opportunities.”

In addition, King said, SIPTU members would want “a process where they can progress their grade-related issues.”

“Over the coming years we will continue to campaign and battle for better and improved public service provision for all our citizens,” King concluded, “delivered by directly employed public sector workers on fair pay that recognises their contribution.”

Press Statement on behalf of the Staff Panel group of unions of the National Joint Council RE Extension of Recruitment Freeze

The Staff Panel group of unions of the National Joint Council in the Irish Health Service was this morning (Friday) informed of the intention of HSE CEO Mr Bernard Gloster to announce the recruitment embargo on all appointments of staff in the HSE to be extended until the 31st of December 2023.

This follows the extension announced earlier this year for clerical and support grades in the Irish health system. The recruitment embargo will now apply across all grades with the exception of 2023 graduate nurses and consultants.

The Staff Panel group of unions have stated they were not consulted on this extension of the embargo, and that this is in breach of the requirement for proper consultation with the unions in relation to such matters.

The Staff Panel also stated that the effect of this embargo and the freezing of appointments will be to encourage healthcare staff to seek employment abroad.

The group of unions has today requested an urgent meeting with the HSE but state that the HSE has declined to meet with them on this matter. The unions will be consulting with their respective executive councils and members on their response to this announcement.

Kevin Figgis, SIPTU Health Division said
“This decision will cripple departments as they struggle to prepare for the busy winter period. Our members are already carrying deficits due to existing vacancies and to have recruitment come to a sudden stop, without any notice, will render many services unable to meet the growing demand for service over the coming weeks.”

Speaking on this announcement INMO Director of Industrial Relations Albert Murphy said
“This is playing into the hands of other countries such as the UK and Australia who will be only too delighted to offer full time permanent secure jobs to nurses and other healthcare professionals”

Anthony Owens, from the IMO said
“Medical teams all over the country are short staffed and the recruitment freeze on doctors and other healthcare staff will significantly and negatively impact on patient care. We are seriously concerned that this proposal will lead to worsening conditions for patients and doctors which is all the more disastrous as we head into Winter.”

Ashley Connolly, National Secretary, Fórsa said:

“The HSE’s decision to cap all recruitment will have a considerable impact on health service delivery as we enter the winter, a time when more pressure is placed on our health services. In addition, the additional uncertainty will leave Fórsa members considering their futures within the health service.”

Terry Casey, of the MLSA, stated
“This decision will compound the recruitment and retention crisis in laboratories and will severely impact the ability of medical scientists and all healthcare staff to deliver the health services that Irish patients need. At a time when there is global shortage of healthcare staff, the HSE should be striving to be an employer of choice rather than withdrawing offers of employment.”

SIPTU calls on minister to expand radiation therapist places or face major crisis

The Government must urgently expand the number of third-level places in radiation therapy or face a major crisis, SIPTU warned the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, this week.

The union, along with Higher Education representatives, met with the Minister to discuss major staffing deficits in radiation therapists across country which has had a knock-on effect on patient waiting times and left vital equipment idle.

John McCamley, SIPTU Sector Organiser, said: “Radiation therapists perform a crucial job. Almost half of people with a cancer diagnosis will require radiation therapy as part of their treatment plan. This treatment is delivered by radiation therapists as part of a multi-disciplinary team and they are the only profession with the legal authority to deliver radiation therapy. These services are mainly delivered by the HSE in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

“SIPTU has successfully argued for the setting up of the radiation therapist review which will hopefully recommend measures to improve the retention of existing staff. However, there continues to be a shortage of new radiation therapist graduates and, if that continues, we are facing a major crisis.

“This week, we impressed on the Minister the need to expand undergraduate and postgraduate places to increase recruitment of radiation therapists and to offer supports for students during clinical placements. The meeting was positive and constructive. We welcome any assistance the Minister and his department can provide on this matter.”

SIPTU seeks “urgent” meeting with HSE over recruitment freeze

SIPTU Health Division has called for an urgent meeting with the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Department of Health following the decision to implement a recruitment freeze on many grades represented by the union within the health service.

The freeze was revealed in a HSE memo, released today, which confirmed that grades such as Health Care Assistants, Healthcare Support Assistants (or Home Helps), porters, catering assistants, chefs, security personnel and others will all be affected by the decision.

The union said that such a freeze would also affect agency staff, who have traditionally been used to fill vacant posts, maternity leave or long-term sick leave within the healthcare workforce.

Kevin Figgis, SIPTU Divisional Organiser, said: “The decision to implement a recruitment freeze on many of the grades represented by our union has come as a great shock to our members. Many of the grades affected are patient-facing and there will be an inevitable knock-on effect on services.

“What is most alarming about this decision is that we are fast approaching the difficult winter period. Services already struggle to contain the pressures which invariably arise. Our members will now face an impossible situation if a recruitment freeze prohibits the refilling of a vacant patient-facing post within the acute setting or community healthcare.”

Damian Ginley, SIPTU Sector Organiser, said: “Our members provide direct care to patients in hospital or through the community in services such as Healthcare Support Assistants. Their patients and service users are some of the most vulnerable people in society and also some of the most in need of support.

“The HSE has recently stated its wish to extend service provision across the weekend. The decision today will stop any of those plans in their tracks as existing staff are under enough pressure as it is.”

SIPTU radiographers disappointed at HSE response to Galway hospitals’ staffing crisis

SIPTU radiographers at University Hospital Galway and Merlin Park University Hospital have expressed their disappointment at the response from management at a meeting today (12th October) to discuss staffing levels.

Radiographers earlier this week voted overwhelmingly for industrial action up to and including strike action over short staffing and excessive workloads. The vote followed months of frustration over recruitment and retention issues at the two hospitals which have left SIPTU members facing a significant extra workload amid a 20 per cent staffing deficit.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, John McCamley, said: “This dispute centres around staffing, increased workload, non-payment of wage arrears, out of hours arrangements and non-adherence to national agreements. There is a growing sense that HSE management is not willing to engage meaningfully to resolve this dispute and that the window to find a resolution is closing fast.

“SIPTU members are disappointed that no concrete proposals have come from management to resolve the dispute and are frustrated regarding the additional workload placed on radiographers as a result of inadequate staffing.

“SIPTU representatives are seeking commitments from management that it will address wage arrears as a matter of urgency and deal with patient safety issues in the provision of proper out of hours arrangements. ”