Due to the adverse conditions and a Red Alert weather warning our Dublin Health Worker Support Committee meeting scheduled to take place at 2.30pm today (Wednesday, 28th February) in Liberty Hall has been rescheduled to 2.30pm, Tuesday, 6th March.
The rescheduled meeting will also take place in Liberty Hall.
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Following Storm Ophelia, SIPTU representatives submitted a claim to recognise the work of all staff who were in a position to report for duty during the height of the storm on 16th October 2017.
In this regard, the Health Service Executive (HSE) confirmed today (Tuesday, 27th February) that all SIPTU Health members who attended for work on the 16th October 2017 should have the time credited to them. The timing of taking this leave should be agreed locally.
The HSE has also confirmed in this circular that:
“where such an event occurs in the future, where for health and safety reasons some employees are unable to attend for duty; those affected can be granted annual leave from their allocation, for the hours they were scheduled to work. If the employee has no annual leave remaining, they may use leave from their next leave cycle, and have their allocation adjusted accordingly.”
SIPTU representatives are seeking a meeting with the HSE to resolve any outstanding matters.
One small step in one very big (and growing issue). Pensions in Ireland.
In January, the Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty finally announced changes to the State pension system that will end some of the gross unfairness of how eligibility for the State pension is calculated. For the 50,000 women or men who worked at home prior to 1994 to care for children, parents or relatives, this is a welcome breakthrough.
A new home carers credit up to a maximum of 20 years will be made available. The changes will take effect from early 2019. The backdating of payments will only go back to March 2018.
The second and more critical element of the reform package is the move towards total contributions (as opposed to total years spent in and out of the workforce) from 2020. For those with gaps in their work history for reasons other than caring duties, this is of huge importance. Seasonal workers or those who have taken time out for sickness or other reasons and who will retire before 2020, can apply to be assessed under the new regime from 2018 on.
These changes form part of a wider package set out in 2010 for pension reform in Ireland. By far the most significant of planned changes will be the increase in the State pension age to 67 by 2021 and 10 years from now, the age will rise to 68.
By 2028, Ireland will have the highest pension age across advanced industrialised economies. Ireland is currently just one of three countries across the OECD that plans to increase the state pension age to 68. These policy changes are being introduced against a backdrop of a wider debate across advanced economies about the impact on the public finances and the labour market of an ageing society. On the face of it, Ireland has a ticking demographic time bomb.
Those of retirement age and older have been the fastest growing cohort of the population of the Republic of Ireland since 1996. Those aged 65 plus have increased by 54%, compared with a 40% increase in the so-called WAP (Working Age Population, those aged 20-64) and a 9% increase in those aged up to 19 years of age.
Dependency, as measured by age, is a very crude measure.
However, we get some idea of the scale of the medium-term challenge when we look at Ireland’s ratio of working age population (aged 20-64) relative to those older and younger. Ireland’s pensioner support ratio is expected to more than double from 4.7 workers for every retiree in 2015 to 2.1 workers to one retiree in 2050. The solution? The conventional approach adopted by many other western governments has been to increase the State pension age and reduce benefits. At its most basic, there is a limit to which we can keep increasing the State pension age.
For Ireland, the pursuit of this strategy as the only way to resolve our pension problem would be particularly short-sighted.
As a start, our below EU average employment rate must improve. Whereas 64% of men aged between 55 and 60 are in employment, this falls to 48% for females. Increasing female employment rates, technological adaptation in the workplace and introduction of a new second-pillar occupational pension scheme are critical to ensuring timely and adequate incomes in retirement.
SIPTU Health representatives have today (Monday, 19th February) launched a national campaign aimed at protecting the pay of health workers who choose to work beyond 65 years of age.
SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “We are launching the ‘Respect Those Who Stay’ campaign to raise awareness of the plight facing thousands of our members working in the HSE and other related agencies. The Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe announced in 2017 that he would bring forward legislation in 2018 providing public servants with the option of volunteering to continue on after the current retirement age of 65 and remain in employment up to the age of 70.
“However, the Minister stated that he would introduce an interim measure in December 2017. Unfortunately, this interim measure is not fair and equitable for all health workers. It is unacceptable that people who are now 65 and wish to remain in employment on their current, hard earned, terms and conditions are treated so disrespectfully after so many years of long service.”
“Our members, like all workers, are severely impacted by their future eligibility to Contributory State Pension scheme which is due to be set at 68 in the near future. As such, many workers throughout the public service are trying to maintain their financial security by opting to apply to stay in their post beyond the age of 65.
“However, with the exception of one category of staff, health workers are being forced to endure the indignity of signing a one-year fixed term contract as a new entrant and have their incremental point reduced to point one of the pay scale. This is absolutely scandalous and won’t be tolerated by our members. There is a worrying perception that these workers are somehow also entitled to receive their pension while signing onto the one year fixed contract. This is completely false and misleading.”
“In response to this unacceptable situation, SIPTU Health Division has launched this campaign to end this injustice and to ensure that any proposed legislation will be fair and supportive of our loyal and dedicated members who opt to stay in the service of the public.”
Next week, SIPTU Health representatives will launch a national campaign aimed at protecting the pay of health workers who choose to work beyond 65 years of age.
We are launching the ‘Respect Those Who Stay’ campaign to raise awareness of the plight facing thousands of our members working in the HSE and other related agencies. The Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe announced in 2017 that he would bring forward legislation in 2018 providing public servants with the option of volunteering to continue on after the current retirement age of 65 and remain in employment up to the age of 70.
However, the Minister stated that he would introduce an interim measure in December 2017. Unfortunately, this interim measure is not fair and equitable for all health workers. It’s unacceptable that people who are now 65 and wish to remain in employment on their current hard-earned terms and conditions are treated so disrespectfully after many years of long service.
Our members, like all workers, are severely impacted by their future eligibility to Contributory State Pension scheme which is due to be set at 68 in the very near future. As such, many workers throughout the public service are trying to maintain their financial security by opting to apply to stay in their post beyond the age of 65.
However, with the exception of one category of staff, health workers are being forced to endure the indignity of signing a one-year fixed term contract as a new entrant and have their incremental point reduced to point one of the payscale.
This is absolutely scandalous and won’t be tolerated by our members. There is a worrying perception that these workers are somehow also entitled to receive their pension while signing onto the one year fixed contract. This is completely false and misleading.
In response to this unacceptable situation, SIPTU Health Division has launched this campaign to end this current injustice and to ensure that any proposed legislation will be fair and supportive of our loyal and dedicated members who opt to stay in the service of the public.
Join the campaign and respect those who stay.
Under the current proposals, health workers retire at 65 years of age and their existing contract is severed upon retirement;
- The salary for all employees retained to be paid on the minimum point of the relevant pay scale, adjusted to reflect the employee’s current work pattern as required. However, Department of Health Circular 10/2016 and HSE Circular 18/2017 continue to apply in respect of the salary point for nursing and midwifery grades
- No pension contribution is payable and no public service pension benefits are accrued during the period of retention
- The employee is liable for Pension Related Deduction (PRD)
- Pension suspended/pension abatement rules apply
- Employee is issued with a Fixed-Term Contract which confirms the terms and conditions governing retention under the public service interim arrangements
- Employee is retained on a work pattern with the same or fewer hours
- A request by an employee for a reduction in his or her existing contractual working hours will be subject to management approval and a decision by management to grant a reduction in hours must be consistent with the business of the organisation
- The employees’ lump sum is paid
- Employees will be PRSI Class A
- No applications for retention beyond the age of eligibility to claim the Contributory State Pension (currently age 66) will be considered
The spread of precarious work practices is a major and growing threat for workers in both the Republic and Northern Ireland, according to research released by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
The Congress study, ‘Insecure and Uncertain’; Precarious Work in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, reveals an alarming growth in precarious work practices across the island of Ireland.
Congress General Secretary Patricia King said: “The report clearly illustrates the impact of precarious work extends well beyond the workplace and its unchallenged growth raises profound questions as to the type of society we wish to live in.”
The study reveals that 8% of the workforce in the Republic — which equates to 158,190 workers — saw significant variations in their hours of work, from week to week or month to month and that some 7% of the workforce was in ‘temporary employment’ in 2016. It also shows a dramatic rise of 34% in the category of ‘part-time, self-employed without employees’, since 2008, a rise which is indicative of significant growth in bogus or false self-employment.
Equally worrying is the revelation that while overall employment numbers have risen, the numbers in permanent full-time employment are still 109,000 lower than the figure for 2008. The report shows that over half of that number said they were in temporary employment because they could not find permanent work, which represents a 179% increase on the 2008 figure. In Northern Ireland, a summary of the trends and patterns of precarious employment found some 6% of the workforce is employed in temporary, non-permanent arrangements.
In addition, 11.4% of the workforce is self- employed without employees, an increase of 1.6% as a share of the labour force over the period 2008 to 2016. The number of workers who are self-employed without employees has increased significantly since 2008. Most significant has been the more than doubling in the numbers who are part-time self-employed without employees.
There has also been a 25% increase in the number of workers who are in temporary employment, over the period 2008 to 2016. The report notes a 43% increase in the numbers in involuntary temporary employment and a 35% increase in the numbers that are involuntary part-time employed, over the period 2008 to 2016.
The Congress study found that female and young workers were more likely to be employed on precarious or insecure terms, with workers in the distribution, hotels and catering, retail and construction sectors featuring prominently, along with public administration, health and education. In recent weeks, media organisations such as RTE have also faced criticism over their use of precarious work practices.
The Congress study found official policies, such as reducing employers PRSI on low paid work, has made it easier and more profitable to hire workers on temporary, insecure contracts.
The study revealed that such work practices impact negatively on workers in terms of lower living standards, inability to access secure accommodation and placed them at greater risk of developing health problems.
It also found that such practices have an adverse impact on business and employers through the loss of productivity and innovation.
In addition, a growth in precarious work results in lower tax.
So, if you’re in a bad job and want a good job, you should join a union, get yourself and your co-workers organised and fight back against casualisation.
SIPTU members on the Frontline
Eva Mitchell Hospitality worker Galway
“Not knowing what you’re going to be doing from day to day or week to week, is a huge issue for workers in my industry. Not knowing how many hours you are going to be working, not knowing if you are going to be able to pay your rent. It is as short term as that. Looking into the future is impossible. You can’t, think about mortgage or planning families because it is unrealistic. Why would anyone not want to have some sort of sense of security for the future. It is absolutely vital that we have some sort of security.”
Name withheld Media Worker Dublin
“I have worked for the same company for the last eight years. However, I am not directly employed by that company, rather I am paid through an agency and officially categorised as self-employed. From week to week my working hours can change and I do not receive holiday pay. My contract with the agency is a rolling one which is renewed every few months. Despite the company I am working for being officially a public one, myself and many of my colleagues’ due to the precarious nature of our employment do not have the ability to play a stable role in society.”
Simon Bowes Childcare worker Co. Kerry
“As the ECCE scheme is only funded by the Government for 38 weeks per year Early Years services are in a position where they can only offer contracts for this timeframe. This means that thousands of Early Years Educators are stuck in a trap of precarity where we are unemployed for 14 weeks every year. We have to claim social welfare during this time which is not a situation that professionals should have to find themselves in. Providers cannot even claim social welfare as they are self employed. Our government needs to increase its funding of the sector to address this precarity.”
SIPTU members in Section 39 organisations have today (Friday, 9th February) deferred strike action, scheduled for next Wednesday (14th February), following an agreement, facilitated by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), to begin a process that will lead to the restoration of pay for thousands of health and social care workers.
SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “After months of intense campaigning, SIPTU representatives have secured a viable process for a structured and transparent pay restoration mechanism for thousands of Section 39 workers. The process has independent oversight, facilitated by the WRC, and will see pay restoration commence on a phased basis in 2018 where feasible.
“This agreement commits the HSE and the Department of Health to a mechanism of pay restoration which is underpinned by strict timelines. The initial review of which Section 39 organisations have an established pay linkage with the HSE and Section 38 organisations will be completed by the end of March 2018. Any disputes will be addressed by an agreed oversight body comprising of representatives of stakeholders and chaired by a WRC official.
“Due to the substantial progress that has been made, and in order to allow the process to commence, SIPTU members have agreed to defer, for a period of six weeks, their strike action which was scheduled to commence on Wednesday, 14th February. The ball is now in the court of the management of the Section 39 organisations, which have been identified as having a pay link with the public service. They must now play their part in bringing about pay restoration for their staff. In particular, we are calling on Section 39 employers with outstanding Labour Court recommendations concerning this issue to commence pay restoration immediately.”
He added: “It was the brave decision to vote for strike action by our members in Section 39 organisations which brought about this progress towards pay restoration. They wish to acknowledge the support their campaign received from members of the Oireachtas, service users and their families. They also wish to acknowledge the work of the WRC and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in securing an agreed process in relation to this dispute.”
1) Recognition of Pay Linkage secured
2) Independent assessment and analysis of pay data submitted by Section 39 Organisations at HSE request to report by 31st March 2018.
3) Pay Restoration implementation group Chaired by Workplace Relations Commission Official. ICTU nominee to be appointed to the group.
4) Section 39 Pay Restoration commences on a phased basis 2018.
5) Strike Action not cancelled but deferred to allow time for assessment and analysis report to be produced.
6) The campaign to organise and support Section 39 workers continues to ensure Pay justice for all!
SIPTU representatives have today (Monday, 5th February) confirmed that up to ten Section 39 organisations in counties Wexford, Kerry, Westmeath, Sligo and Leitrim will be balloted this week on whether to take strike action in their campaign for pay justice.
SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “The hundreds of workers to be balloted this week will be deciding if they wish to join a two-day work stoppage which is already supported by their colleagues in nine other Section 39 organisations. This two-day work stoppage will occur the week after the one-day stoppage on Wednesday, 14th February, by members in the nine Section 39 organisations around the country who have already voted to take strike action.
“It is becoming clear to our members that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) is obstructing a resolution to this dispute which concerns their legitimate request for pay justice. The role of the DPER in blocking a resolution was made clear last week when its officials failed to attend a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health to discuss the issues of concern for workers in Section 39 organisations
“This meeting was informed that the HSE has requested the funding necessary to restore the pay of workers in Section 39 organisations but this demand was refused by the DPER.”
Bell added: “In recent days, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, and Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, have decided to support the position of the officials in the DPER. They have incorrectly claimed that around 2,000 Section 39 organisations could be impacted by our members’ demand for pay justice. Representatives of SIPTU and other unions have carefully reviewed this claim and can confirm that the number of Section 39 organisations with an established pay link to the public service is actually 66.”
SIPTU members in the following organisations will participate in the strike action on Wednesday, 14th February and attend a demonstration outside the Department of Health in Dublin on the same day; Rehab Ireland, the Cheshire Foundation, Western Care in County Mayo, St Joseph’s Foundation in County Cork, SOS Kilkenny, Ability West, Wicklow Community and Family Services, SOS Workshops and Marymount University Hospital and Hospice, Curraheen, County Cork.
A POLICY paper released by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and the One Cork Project in June last year highlighted the scale of Ireland’s housing emergency.
It revealed something of the suffering, homelessness and poverty that persists as part of this crisis and called for a robust, local authority-led, emergency response to building social housing.
More than a century after the promises of 1916 to cherish all the children equally, a dominant neoliberal policy doctrine in housing has rendered Ireland unable to adequately house its own people, despite being one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
Blind ideological allegiance to the market as the sole supplier of housing need has engendered a grave affordability crisis, whereby soaring housing costs for renters, as well as for first time buyers, are plainly prohibitive for the vast majority of Irish workers.
A separate report by ICTU has shed light on another facet of this injustice facing workers: the growing prevalence of precarity and bogus self-employment.
Inextricably linked to chronic levels of low pay and in-work poverty, a dramatic rise in the number of insecure, precarious contracts has disproportionately affected younger workers. Evidence suggests that nearly half (46%) of workers aged 35 or under are on non-standard contracts. Particularly pertinent for this category is the issue of involuntary low working hours, with up to a fifth of workers under 30 purporting to be stuck in part-time jobs they would like to trade for full-time work.
Such degradation of employment standards has contributed to a major decline in the ability of young, low income households to acquire long term homes. A significant rise in housing costs is compounded by stagnant median wages, while the prevalence of precarity renders borrowing almost impossible, with mortgage applications depending on stable employment contracts.
It comes as no surprise then, that as the average age for buying a house continues to rise, twice the number of adult children were living at home in 2016 as in 2006.
This generation has borne the brunt of decades of myopic neo-liberal policy choices. It has endured austerity, unemployment, increased welfare conditionality and forced emigration. It is suffering first-hand the social violence perpetrated by a deliberate erosion of workers’ rights, living the miserable reality of underpaid, under-unionised, uncertain work.
This is a betrayed generation, an exploited generation, a generation ignored by the political class, subjugated by employers, tyrannised by unscrupulous landlords. In a society that prioritises the interests and demands of global investors and equity funds over those of citizens, the spheres of housing and employment intersect in a matrix of capitalist, intergenerational oppression.
For this reason, it is imperative now more than ever that young people organise in trade unions and resist the given unjust economic realities.
Social housing, provided as a human right, is not an impossible ask. Nor is legislation to end precarity and to provide collective bargaining rights. These should be core demands: decent housing, decent work and decent lives.
This article was written by Claire O’Connor and first appeared in Liberty newspaper. Download full version here