22/05/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole

SIPTU representatives secure funding to restore pay for thousands of Section 39 workers

SIPTU representatives have today (Wednesday 22nd May) confirmed that a process for restoring the pay of thousands of Section 39 workers has commenced in scores of health and social care facilities across the country.

The move comes following lengthy discussions under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) with the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive (HSE)

SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “The HSE have written directly to each of the fifty Section 39 organisation that were identified following the union’s campaign for pay justice, to commence the urgent implementation of pay restoration for Section 39 workers. This directive was accompanied with the provision of funding determined by the HSE for each Section 39 organisation on the basis of the data/information provided to them. The initial payment centres on an initial payment of €1000 as agreed and the effective date of payment remains 30th April 2019.”

He added: “Negotiations on the application of the WRC agreement negotiated in October 2018 on pay restoration for the remaining 250 Section 39 organisations will commence on Friday 19th July, 2019.”

A small number of Section 39 and Community Home Help organisations, which failed to submit a funding application to the HSE, will be addressed separately with management.

17/05/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole

SIPTU members working as support staff vote for strike action

SIPTU members working as health service support staff have voted by 94% to 6% in favour of taking strike action in a dispute concerning the implementation of a job evaluation scheme.

The result of vote was announced today (Friday, 17th May) at a special conference on pay justice in Croke Park.

In a separate ballot, chefs working for the Health Service Executive (HSE) also voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action by a margin of 97% to 3% in favour.

SIPTU Deputy General Secretary for the Public Sector, John King, said: “The response from our members today is clear and emphatic. Our union is demanding meaningful engagement with Government on the resolution to this longstanding issue once and for all. Our members have played by the rules, and kept the health services going in recent times. They deserve to get the pay justice they have waited so patiently for.”

He added: “Our members have the full backing of our union on this as it was conceded as part of a previous national public sector agreement.”

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell said: “The size of the vote today in favour of strike action undoubtedly demonstrates our members’ anger with the Government due to their failure to give them the fair and equal treatment they demand. It is a fact that this vote was brought about by the failure by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe to honour the provisions included in the Lansdowne Road and Haddington Road agreements.”

He added: “It is never our members’ desire to engage in strike action, which will put additional pressures on the health service. However, after months of obstruction our members have been left with no option but to express themselves and their frustrations. The ball is now in the court of the Government and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. They can either pay our members what they are owed or face the consequences.”

The all-out strike involving over 17,000 health support staff workers will initially take place in 36 acute hospital facilities across the country.

The following is a list of the hospitals where SIPTU support staff members voted in favour of strike action:

  • Cork University Hospital
  • Cork University Maternity Hospital
  • Kerry University Hospital
  • Mallow General Hospital
  • South Infirmary Hospital Cork
  • South Tipperary General Hospital
  • Wexford General Hospital
  • St Lukes Hospital Carlow/Kilkenny
  • Mercy Hospital Cork
  • Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown
  • National Rehabilitation Hospital
  • Beaumont Hospital
  • St Ita’s Portrane
  • Mater Hospital
  • St James Hospital
  • St Vincent’s University Hospital
  • Tallaght Hospital
  • Our Lady’s Hospital Navan
  • Louth County Hospital
  • Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda
  • Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin
  • Rotunda Hospital
  • Central Mental Hospital
  • Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar
  • Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore
  • Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise
  • Naas General Hospital
  • Cavan General Hospital
  • Letterkenny University Hospital
  • Sligo General Hospital
  • Roscommon Hospital
  • Portiuncula Hospital Ballinasloe
  • Galway University Hospital
  • Merlin Park
  • Mayo University Hospital
  • UL Hospital Dooradoyle
  • UL Maternity Hospital
  • UL Orthopedic Hospital Croom

My business is – revolution

When heckled on a street corner about how he knew so much about revolution, James Connolly did not hesitate to respond that: “My business is revolution!”

This insight offers the thread by which to understand the nature, and essential continuity, of Connolly’s career, binding the Red to the Green.

As a trade union leader he fought for a social and economic revolution; as a socialist he fought for a political revolution. It was a struggle that led him from the Edinburgh slums to Dublin, to New York, to Belfast and – finally – to the flames of the GPO.

He was a man of big ideas and high ideals, who as his old friend and comrade, Cathal O’Shannon, put it, aimed through his every word, thought and deed to secure “the advancement of the working class to power.”

Few Labour leaders had such a sense of purpose. Few Labour leaders had seen and learned so much. He had experienced, first-hand, the poverty and vast disparities of wealth that underscored both the industrial revolution and Fordist production; he had organised among new immigrant communities on the Dublin docksides and in the sweatshops of Manhattan; and he left behind him – through the paragraphs he contributed to the Proclamation of the Irish Republic – a legacy enshrined at the heart of the modern Irish state, that emphasises economic equality, the rights of women and civil liberties.

Yet, it is his role in the 1916 Rising and the heroism of his death, tethered, wounded and reviled, in the courtyard of Kilmainham Jail, that continues to define him a century on.

Because of the Rising, Connolly and Pearse can be sidelined, re-imagined, excoriated or sanitised: but they cannot be ignored. Furthermore, because of the continuing inequities and inequalities at the heart of our society, Connolly’s message continues to have a potency and an immediacy that the other voices of Easter Week may have lost due to marked changes in Irish culture and society.

He remains a hope to the poor and the marginalised; and a waking nightmare to the acquisitive and to the exploitative super-rich. That is why, amid the politics of commemoration, Connolly the natural rebel remains a difficult and uncomfortable figure.

That is also why he, of all the signatories of the Proclamation, has recently been singled-out for the most savage and unremitting criticism for his decision to leave Liberty Hall, one last time, and to put himself at the head of the Irish Citizen Army in the battle for Dublin.

If we can dismiss him as no more than a murderous fanatic, we can dismiss his words and denigrate his dreams of a world made better for all.

Yet, this is to overlook what actually took place in Easter 1916. Connolly and Pearse were perfectly clear in their own minds that the Rising was an insurrection conducted by the conventional forces of an Irish Republic, that they themselves had called into being as an expression of the popular will.

Both men were scrupulous in their adherence to the rules and conventions of war, and did their level best to ensure that British Army prisoners were not abused or ill-treated by the insurgents.

Indeed, it was the failure of the British government to accord the same status to the rebels, and the extra-judicial executions in the wake of the Rising, that turned public opinion decisively in favour of the insurgents and made possible the eventual realisation of the Republic in the South.

Throughout Easter Week, Connolly had fought a soldier’s battle.

He was everything and everywhere: Commandant and frontline combatant; heartening his men, raising barricades, leading sorties and directing volleys. Moreover, the Irish Citizen Army under his command, comprising the most loyal and committed of his adherents in the trade unions, had distinguished itself in the fighting to an extent that transcended mere numbers.

The Rising had validated Connolly’s decision “to fight the way I want, not the way the enemy wants,” and the sense that this – far from being a gesture or a ritual sacrifice – was a blow in an ongoing war against capitalism and imperialism.

His injunction to his men to “hold on to your rifles” until economic as well as political liberty had been won – reveals his view of freedoms that had not only to be achieved but constantly defended, and daily improved upon.

Certainly, as he lay wounded in his hospital bed, Connolly’s foes still felt him to be a threat.

William Martin Murphy, Dublin millionaire, strike-breaker and slum landlord, could not – and would not – forget his part in the Dublin Lockout, or that the Starry Plough of the Citizen Army had flown, in triumph and defiance, from his own hotel building during the Rising, while his businesses and tenements burned.

Thus, each day, Murphy’s newspapers demanded the harshest of sentences for the captured rebels and, even as the public mood swung against the executions of their leaders, continued to press for Connolly’s death lest “the worst of the ringleaders” should live to fight another day.

Murphy crossed the Irish Sea and lobbied hard at Westminster in order to ensure that Connolly, in particular, would not be spared.

Thus, when we think of ruthlessness in 1916, let us not think of it solely in terms of the exchange of fire between enemy combatants, brave young men and women committed to their respective causes: but of its cold-blooded variety, conducted not upon the battlefield but in the boardroom, the gentleman’s club and the debating chamber.

It was concern for moderation that led Arthur Henderson, on behalf of the British Labour Party, to do nothing to oppose Murphy’s calls for vengeance.

Perhaps, when seeking to commemorate Connolly, today on the day of his execution, we should remember his own clarion call on behalf of the entire Labour movement – both national and international – then as now, let us “Be moderate, we only want the earth!”

10/05/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole

HSE to direct Section 39 organisations to restore pay for thousands of SIPTU members

SIPTU representatives have today (Friday 10th May) confirmed that following talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) that a process for restoring the pay of thousands of Section 39 workers will commence in the coming weeks.

SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “Within the next ten days the Health Service Executive will direct each Section 39 organisation, that co-operated with the WRC process, and found on an initial list of 50 workplaces identified following the union’s campaign for pay justice for Section 39 workers, to commence the urgent implementation of pay restoration.”

This formal directive will be copied to the recognised unions representing Section 39 workers. It will be accompanied with the provision of funding determined by the HSE for each Section 39 organisation on the basis of data and information provided. The payment centres on an initial payment of €1000 and the effective date of payment remains 30th April 2019.”

He added: “Negotiations on the application of the WRC agreement on pay restoration for the remaining 250 Section 39 organisations will commence on Friday 19th July, 2019.”

Additionally, submissions made to the HSE by a number of community home care organisation which co-operated with the process will also be the focus of an engagement with the HSE next Wednesday. This engagement will focus on technical matters regarding pay restoration for workers in that sector.

A small number of Section 39 and Community Home Help organisations, which failed to submit a funding application to the HSE will be addressed separately with management.

Meetings will also be convened for members working in Section 39 organisations providing home care services from 15th May.

Members can received updates by emailing ask@siptuhealth.ie or by downloading the SIPTU Health App.

06/05/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Our over-worked working life

THERE is a growing interest in reducing the working week – usually expressed as a four- day week.

Numerous ad hoc examples of private and public sector companies and agencies appear in the media while, here in Ireland, Fórsa recently held a conference dedicated to reducing the working week.

The arguments for a shorter working week range from greater work/life balance, productivity, stress reduction, preparing for the impact of automation, etc. As part of that debate below is some information on how many hours per year people work in Ireland in comparison with our EU peer group (other high-income economies).

This data focuses on full-time employees but it should be noted that full-time is defined as approximately 30 hours by the CSO with possible different definitions in other countries. Further, this looks at the private sector as this is where the introduction of a shorter working week on the same rate of pay will be the most challenging.

Private sector economy

In the private sector economy Irish employees work more hours than most other peer group countries.

The UK and the Netherlands report higher annual working hours. The Netherlands is an interesting case. It has the highest level of part-time workers with 50% of all employees working part-time com- pared to an average of less than 25% in other countries.

Annual working hours can be reduced in many ways – not just through a shorter working week. For instance, public holidays, statutory annual holidays and additional holiday hours resulting from collective agreements in the workplace can reduce annual hours worked.

In total, Irish employees work the equivalent of 2.7 weeks more than our peer-group average, assuming a basic 39-hour working week (the UK is not included in our EU peer group for obvious rea- sons; Eurostat is already removing the UK from EU averages).

We don’t work the most, but we work more than most in our peer group.

Working hours by sector

The following looks at sectoral breakdowns. Let’s start with the high working-hour sectors.

  • Irish construction employees work more hours than any other sector, and 15% more than our peer group average – 248 hours annually, or the equivalent of 6.4 weeks more per year. A possible contributor to this high level of working could be the emerging labour shortage in the sector.
  • Irish manufacturing employees work 11% more than our peer group – 175 hours annually, or the equivalent of 4.5 weeks more per year.

Turning to medium-high working-hour sectors we find the following:

  • Irish transport employees work 8% more than our peer group – 132 hours annually, or the equivalent of 3.4 weeks more per year.
  • Irish wholesale/retail employees work 6% more than our peer group – 106 hours annually, or the equivalent of 2.7 weeks more per year.
  • Irish communication and information employees work 2% more than our peer group – 37 hours annually, or the equivalent of nearly one week per year.
  • Irish financial services employees work 5% more than our peer group – 76 hours annually, or the equivalent of nearly two weeks per year.

Finally, let’s look at relatively low working-hour sectors:

  • Irish professional and technical employees work 1% more than our peer group – 11 hours annually, or the equivalent of less than two days per year.
  • Irish administrative service employees work marginally less than our peer group – less than half-a-day per year.
  • Irish hospitality employees work 3% less than our peer group – 53 hours less, or the equivalent of 1.4 weeks per year.

It should be noted that the hospitality sector is likely to have high levels of precariousness.

The problem here may be that full-time employees don’t get enough work.

It’s bad enough that we are over-worked compared to our peer group. But we also get fewer paid days off.

Annually, Irish workers get 88 fewer hours paid without working than our peer group average.

That’s the equivalent of 2.3 weeks fewer paid public holidays, annual holiday leave, etc.

Some might say this is the price we must pay to have a strong economy. However, other economies with far fewer working days and more paid days off have just as strong economies.

Belgium, which has the lowest annual hours worked and the highest number of paid days off, has the highest GDP per person employed (factoring in living costs).

On the other hand, the UK has the highest working hours and the fewest paid days off. Yet they are at the bottom. Ireland, while ranking third, is clumped together with a number of other countries which have fewer working hours and more paid days off.

In short, working more doesn’t guarantee higher output.

Hopefully the debate over the future of the working week will gather pace. But one thing is for sure. Irish workers are already over-worked. What we need is fewer working hours and more paid time off. Now.



29/04/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole

SIPTU representatives raise concerns on proposed staffing model for the National Children’s Hospital

SIPTU representatives have today raised concerns that the formula used to determine safe staffing levels for the new National Children’s Hospital could potentially lead to a shortfall of almost 400 nursing posts.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “The National Children’s Hospital Workforce Framework Report, due to be launched on Wednesday (1st May), will raise a number of issues which are of deep concern. The proposed methodology used to determine the nursing workforce has not been subject to robust examination and external expert scrutiny. The recommended formula for calculating the nurse to health care assistant ratio is proposed at 90:10. This will mean, if the report is accepted, that when the hospital opens its doors there will be an immediate shortfall of just under 400 nursing posts due to this ratio alone. That is unacceptable for staff, for the children of Ireland and their families.”

“SIPTU representatives have also based our concerns by noting the findings of the Framework for Safe Nurse Staffing and Skill Mix in General and Specialist Medical and Surgical Care Settings in Ireland. Launched last year by the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, the report recommended a safe staffing skill-mix of 80:20 for adult surgical and medical wards. While adult and paediatric services are different on a number of grounds, SIPTU representatives highlighted the extensive international and national research undertaken in order to establish and recommend the safe staffing levels for acute adult surgical/medical areas and raised concerns on the apparent omission of a similar process for the National Children’s Hospital.”

“As a key stakeholder on the National Nursing Workforce Planning Group for the new National Children’s Hospital, SIPTU representatives have consistently sought assurances on any proposed safe staffing skill-mix model. The ratio of 90:10 proposed between nurses and health care assistants is at variance with a model of 70:30 in the UK for similar services in that jurisdiction. There is a responsibility on the Department of Health and Health Service Executive to explain this, and to provide evidence supporting their proposals as an international standard for safe care. Modern healthcare is made up of a multi-disciplinary team with responsibility allocated appropriate to the grade, qualification and training of the staff concerned.”

He added: “There is a very real chance the high ratio proposed is not achievable given that 400 nursing vacancies will arise immediately on acceptance of the report. Aside from the fact such large numbers of qualified paediatric nurses may not be available for hire, significant costs will arise if the staffing skill-mix model is inconsistent with international best practice and norms. The proposed skill-mix is also inconsistent with a previous report from the HSE. A National Model of Care for Paediatric Healthcare Services in Ireland. Published in 2015, the report recommended that: “The role of the health care assistant (HCA) should be developed to support paediatric care delivery and the paediatric workforce should work in an integrated way to maximise opportunities for greater quality of care to children and their families.”

SIPTU Industrial Organiser John McCamley said: “It is important that safe staffing in any healthcare facility is based on clinical need, established evidence and international best practice. As members of the steering group for the National Nursing Workforce Planning Group for the new National Children’s Hospital, SIPTU representatives cannot stand over the report until a number of fundamental questions are answered.”

28/04/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole

“Remember the dead; fight like hell for the living”

The Occupational Safety and Health Act in the US became legally effective on April 28th 1971.

This significant piece of legislation sought to ensure that employers provide employees with an environment free from recognized hazards, such as exposure to toxic chemicals, excessive noise levels, mechanical dangers, heat or cold stress, or unsanitary conditions.

The American trade union confederation, AFL-CIO, used the passing of the Act to declare that 28 April should be marked as a commemorative day for those who had died or been injured at work. In 1984, the Canadian Union of Public Employees did the same in Canada. This led, in 1991, to the Canadian federal government declaring April 28 to be a National Day of Mourning.

Various official commemorations are held to this day, and the Canadian flag is flown at half-mast from sunrise to sunset on all federal government buildings.

The idea has spread globally over the years and up to 80 countries now mark Workers’ Memorial Day, many of them with official recognition by the state. Everywhere, the purpose is the same. We seek to commemorate those who have died or been injured because of their work.

While every year we still have too many people who die in accidents at work – 37 died in 2018 in the Republic – many more are affected by occupational illnesses.

Some of these prove fatal while countless others suffer from both physical and psychosocial disorders arising from their work. Alongside our commemoration therefore, we also try to use the day to create awareness and to commit ourselves to creating safer workplaces.  This is why we use the motto based on the words of Cork-born Mary “Mother” Jones – Remember the dead; fight like hell for the living.

Trade unions have been the crucial force in the past in protecting workers and raising the bar to ensure people can return home safe and well after their day’s work.

There is no room for complacency and we need to continue this work.

27/04/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Video: For fairness, respect and action. Vote Yes.

This week, SIPTU Health representatives begun balloting our members in the health service in a dispute over the implementation of a long standing job evaluation process.

Here our members in Tipperary explain why they voted YES for respect, for fairness and to take action.

Balloting continues next week…

22/04/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Balloting begins today

Up to 17,000 hospital support workers are being balloted from today on strike action.

The dispute centres on the implementation of a job evaluation scheme. Health Care Assistants, chefs and other support grades will vote on industrial action over the coming weeks.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser Paul Bell: “The strike ballot will take place in 36 acute hospitals throughout the State, commencing today and concluding on May 17th.

“There are other workers who have now become involved in this matter because they would see that the Government have tried to renege on an agreement which is an integral part of the Lansdowne Road Agreement, which they supported in a secret ballot.”

Listen back to podcast here

21/04/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole

How 1916 changed the world

John Redmond, rallying Irish men to the British war effort, was thinking only in terms of the impact on Irish-British politics of such recruitment. He seems to have been entirely unaware that the first World War was a contest between empires for the control of resources, for the extension of imperial powers, and that he was recruiting Irish men to support and bolster imperial ambitions and greed.

Or perhaps he knew but didn’t think it was important. A similar charge, however, can be laid at the door of the IRB and the Irish Volunteers — they failed entirely to consider (and potentially profit from) the international context of the insurrection. Only James Connolly fully understood that Ireland’s struggle against Britain was a struggle against empire.

In the Workers’ Republic, on 8th April 1916, 16 days before the Rising, Connolly wrote:

The power which holds in subjection more of the world’s population than any other power on the globe, and holds them in subjection as slaves without any guarantee of freedom or power of self-government, this power that sets Catholic against Protestant, the Hindu against the Mohammedan, the yellow man against the brown, and keeps them quarrelling with each other whilst she robs and murders them all — this power appeals to Ireland to send her sons to fight under England’s banner for the cause of the oppressed. The power whose rule in Ireland has made of Ireland a desert, and made the history of our race read like the records of a shambles, as she plans for the annihilation of another race appeals to our manhood to fight for her because of our sympathy for the suffering, and of our hatred of oppression

Connolly’s point here was that Ireland was neither alone nor unique in suffering under empire, and by and large, until very recently, Irish commentators have failed to place Ireland’s struggle in this international context.

Paradoxically, all across the world, the Irish Rising, and subsequent War of Independence, had a galvanising and morale-building influence on contemporary and subsequent independence movements.

In an excellent article on this very subject Liam Ó Ruairc argues that: “The 1916 Easter Rising had a very significant impact and influence on antiimperialist movements worldwide, at the time particularly on those in India and Egypt.”

The British were well aware of the consequences of losing Ireland, consequences that were not always clear to most of those Irish fighting for independence. Ó Ruairc quotes Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Field-Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, saying on 30th March 1921: “If we lose Ireland we have lost the Empire.”

And, Sir Edward Carson: “If you tell your Empire in India, in Egypt, and all over the world that you have not got the men, the money, the pluck, the inclination and the backing to restore order in a country within 20 miles of your own shore, you may as well begin to abandon the attempt to make British rule prevail throughout the Empire at all.”

The fact is the Rising signalled, perhaps even began, the process of disintegration in the British empire — but this has not always been acknowledged in Ireland, and in certain sectors, I suspect, remains an unwelcome thought. There has always been a double pulse in Irish political life.

On the one hand we find a servile tendency on the part of political elites to seek the approval and patronage of larger powers, exemplified in the acceptance of direction from the ECB, for example, or the unwillingness to assert our sovereignty in the matter of US troop movements, and renditions, through Shannon.

On the other hand, there is a generous willingness on the part of non-State formations to identify with and support liberation movements, social and political, throughout the post-colonial world.

It would do us no harm at all to consider the international context and consequences of the Rising, and to ask ourselves where we place ourselves now in the ongoing contests between great powers and sovereign peoples.