17/01/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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SIPTU rejects Fine Gael claim on cost of demand to stop the increase in pension age

SIPTU representatives have rejected a claim by finance minister, Paschal Donohoe, that the State cannot afford to stop the increase in the pension age to 67 years in 2021. Responding to finance minister, Paschal Donohoe, who questioned how the €200 million cost of such a policy could be funded, SIPTU Researcher, Michael Taft, said that it could be financed from the existing Social Insurance Fund.

Michael Taft said: “The Minister has said that it will cost €217 million per year to stop the pension age increase and has questioned how this would be paid for.  The €217 million cost of stopping the increase can be paid out of the surplus in the Social Insurance Fund. The Fund is currently running a surplus of €1.4 billion a year. The reality is that, in the short term, there would be no need to increase taxation, cut spending or borrow to finance the cancellation of the pension age increase. For the longer term, the ‘STOP67’ SIPTU campaign has called for a Stakeholder Forum to discuss new policies regarding issues such as the pension age, age discrimination, living standards and life quality in retirement.”

“The Government has already introduced a number of new PRSI based payments, such as optical, dental, illness benefits and unemployment benefit for self-employed, which are paid out of the Social Insurance Fund surplus. It is quite credible to suggest that the Fund can be used to cover the short-term cost of halting the planned increase in the pension age to 67 next year.”

A SIPTU campaign to stop the plans to increase the state pension age to 67 years of age in 2021 and 68 in 2028 has become a major issue in this election, prior to its formal launch on Thursday, 23rd January in Dublin.

SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, Ethel Buckley said: “SIPTU members have helped to make the government plan to raise the pension age to 67 one of the major issues of the election campaign. In recent weeks, SIPTU representatives have been working hard, lobbying politicians and bringing together interested organisations to campaign on this issue which was one of the key concerns raised by our membership at the union’s Biennial delegate conference last year.”

The ‘STOP67’ SIPTU campaign to halt the increase in the state pension age will be formally launched at an event in the Cheyne Room, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, 6 Kildare Street, Dublin 2 at 11.00 a.m. on Thursday, 23rd January. The launch will also be addressed by supportive campaign groups including Age Action and Active Retirement Ireland.

 

12/01/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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Sunday Read: Racism has no place in politics

The poison of racism has been brought into politics in Ireland in recent months. Ahead of General Election 2020, incoming SIPTU General Secretary, Joe Cunningham, has made the position of the union on racist and anti-immigrant approach to politics clear.

He said: “Racist and anti-immigrant sentiment should have no place in politics in Ireland. As trade unionists stopping the spread of such vile views is a crucial task as the spread of racism can only lead to division between workers. Such division makes the core task of our union, improving the living standards of members and their families, much more difficult. The spread of racism and anti-immigrant sentiment is also corrosive to our society and the general wellbeing of communities across the country.”

He added: “I would call upon SIPTU members to make clear their abhorrence for those who would seek to use racist and immigrant sentiment to further their own political agendas. SIPTU members should vote for those candidates who will further the interests of all workers and not seek to divide us.”

05/01/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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SIPTU says overcrowding crisis is leading to ambulance service chaos

SIPTU representatives have today (Sunday, 5th January) said that the overcrowding crisis in emergency departments is causing chaos for ambulance professionals across the country.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell said: “SIPTU representatives are demanding that the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive (HSE) take immediate and effective action to relieve the immense pressure being experienced by ambulance professionals across the country. At the end of November, SIPTU representatives requested that the HSE and Department of Health agree a protocol for the handover of patients at emergency departments. Unfortunately, our calls were ignored and now we have an unacceptable situation where our members are reporting delays in some cases of between three and a half and seven hours outside emergency departments as our now annual winter overcrowding crisis bites. It is outrageous that in 2020 Ireland patients are being treated in the loading bays of hospitals instead of hospital beds. This is not what quality patient care looks like, and this kind of chaos is starving communities of a safe and functioning ambulance service, particularly in areas of the west of Ireland and in the midlands.”

“While the HSE and Department of Health are responding to some areas of the overcrowding crisis, primarily by attempting to boost the number of beds available in hospitals there seems to be little consideration or emergency planning to make sure ambulances are kept on the road and readily available for communities. Over the weekend, we had the absurd situation where SIPTU members working a 12 hour shift in an ambulance base in County Clare were dispatched on a 901km roundtrip to Clonmel and back to Youghal due to local resources in being held up in Tipperary while ambulances from Kilkenny bases were dispatched to emergencies in Cork. This chaotic system is not only bad for patients and driving up ambulance waiting times it is also having detrimental effect on the health and wellbeing of our members with many ambulance professionals continuously exposed to long shift over-runs and unsatisfactory rest and break times.”

He added: “SIPTU representatives have also written to the Director of Ambulance Services and representatives of the Department of Health to request an urgent meeting to highlight our members’ deep concerns and to seek assurances that all is being done to prevent this crisis from spilling into more communities.”

05/01/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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Remembering Marian Finucane

SIPTU Health Division would like to express our deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Marian Finucane, following the death of the broadcaster who made an immense contribution to journalism and women’s rights in Ireland.

Her contribution to broadcasting and journalism has been well acknowledged since her untimely death. However, Marian should also be remembered as a person who played a leading role for many years in the struggle of women for equality in Ireland.

In her long broadcasting career she provided a platform for those highlighting areas of discrimination against women in Ireland such as unequal pay and not being able to avail of contraception. Through her work, Marian Finucane helped bring about significant progress in Irish society during a crucial period of change. 

Ar dheis dé go raibh anam

03/01/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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Grace period for nurses and midwives retention fee confirmed

The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) announced that it will accept payments in January for its Annual Retention Fee (ARF).

This grace period will allow extra time for Nurses and Midwives to pay an annual fee that is normally due on January 1st. Nurses and midwives practising in Ireland have a professional and legal responsibility to have their name on the Register of Nurses and Midwives which is maintained by the NMBI. This includes clinical practice, nursing/midwifery management, education and research.

Each year it is necessary for all nurses and midwives working in Ireland to pay their ARF to maintain their registration. Employers will normally seek a certificate from nurses and midwives at the start of each year.

For further information on payment please visit the Annual Retention Fee page on the NMBI website

For customer service queries, you can ring 1890 200 116 and for technical queries in relation to payment methods e.g. direct debit, you can email registration@nmbi.ie

03/01/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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Podcast: SIPTU Ambulance Professionals planning national mobilising campaign

We want ambulance professionals to be recognised as health/social care workers, this is the next natural step but cannot come about with the co-operation of the Health Minister & Dept of Health…” – SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Paul Bell speaking this morning on LMFM with Michael Reade

Listen back here ↓

01/01/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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SIPTU preparing to mobilise to win respect for ambulance professionals

SIPTU representatives have today (Wednesday, 1st January) said that members working in the National Ambulance Service (NAS) are planning a national mobilising campaign to win respect and recognition for all ambulance professionals in 2020.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “Our members, across all grades in the NAS, are determined to secure greater recognition from the health employers including, if necessary, by taking a ballot for industrial action early in the new year. Our members are no longer “van” drivers. They have over a relatively short period of time developed into a highly skilled workforce with the ability to make key clinical decisions and to administer lifesaving medications to patients suffering trauma, cardiac arrest or stroke. That deserves to be recognised.”

“In 2017, SIPTU representatives engaged in a successful national industrial campaign to secure vital resources for our NAS members to do their jobs effectively and safely, including the purchase of a new ambulance fleet to serve the public.

In 2019, SIPTU representatives participated in a review of the skillsets of ambulance professionals with a specific focus on emergency medical technicians and paramedics. The findings of this review, due to be published in early 2020, are likely to confirm what SIPTU members already believe – that the role of all frontline ambulance professionals has evolved through education and training to the standard expected of health and social care professionals.”

He added: “It may shock the wider medical community, including the Minister for Health, Simon Harris and indeed the general public, that ambulance professionals are not regulated unlike nurses, midwives, radiographers, radiation therapists and physiotherapists yet they are responsible for administering up to 45 lifesaving drugs and making clinical decisions and in many cases are the first point of contact for patients. The regulation of ambulance professionals must be treated as a priority.

“As with other health and social care professions,  regulation will protect patients, provide a mandatory framework for practice and make it an offence to impersonate staff members. It is well overdue. It may also shock those same actors that ambulance professionals have no recognised pay scale within the public sector consolidated pay scales. This is absolutely unacceptable and must be addressed once and for all.”

“Our members rightly feel that their time for recognition and respect is now and that the Government needs to engage on these issues and give them confidence that the future structure, viability and vision of our National Ambulance Service works for the many, not the few.”

31/12/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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SIPTU members working in Section 39 organisations to ballot for strike action 

SIPTU representatives have today (Tuesday, 31st December) confirmed that up to 500 home helps working in community and disability services across Dublin city and county will be balloted for strike action early in the new year.

The decision follows the failure of some Section 39 organisations to honour a national “pay restoration” agreement brokered under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission between SIPTU representatives, the Health Service Executive (HSE), the Department of Health and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER).

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell said: “SIPTU representatives have done everything possible to secure payments owed to our members in Section 39 organisations since a deal was brokered on 30th April, 2019. The organisations at the centre of this dispute provide home care services on behalf of the HSE through a Service Level Agreement (SLA) and have established pay links to public service pay scales. This pay relationship, which ultimately allowed for our members to have their pay cut in line with the Financial Measures in the Public Interest Act (FEMPI) during the downturn, is now being ignored while our members in the broader public service family are rightly having their pay restored and progressed through the Public Service Stability Agreement including an increase in take home pay from 1st January 2020. Our members in these organisations, all low paid workers, are falling further behind, having endured cuts in pay of approximately 6% and also suffering a cut in their hours which has had a knock on effect on service users and their families. They now have been left with no option other than to take action.”

“The balloting of up to 500 home helps will commence on Monday 20th January and include organisations such as Terenure Home Helps Services, Crumlin Home Care Services, Dublin West Home Care Services, Trinity Home Care Services, North Inner City Home Care Services and Fingal Home Care Services.”

Bell also confirmed a number of other Section 39 organisations that have not yet committed to pay restoration in the wider health and social care sector will also be balloted for strike action in January.

“These organisations, approximately 250 in total, will be balloted for strike action by SIPTU and other trade unions involved in this dispute, around the third week of January. These organisation are located in every corner of the country and many are household names in the provision of health and social services.”

He added: “In recent weeks, the Government has declared through the HSE and Department of Health under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission that these organisations have no budgetary provision made to pay these workers under the HSE service plan for 2020. This is simply not good enough and another attempt by DPER to frustrate the pay restoration process. The original 50 organisations that played a crucial role in our pay justice campaign, with the exception of Section 39 home care organisations, have all now received payment under the national “pay restoration” agreement. The cost of pay restoration for the remaining organisations amounts to €7 million.”

29/12/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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Sunday Read: Challenging the Far Right with the facts

In the last Sunday Read of 2019, we will look to dispel some of the myths surrounding immigration and the spread of fake news. The distortion of facts is no longer confined to extremist social media outlets. They are being brought into parliament.

For example, Noel Grealish hit the headlines recently claimed that billions of euros were being remitted from Ireland to Nigeria, implying that it could be the result of fraud or criminal activity. He deliberately ignored official data from the CSO (which the Government had supplied to him) showing remittance levels to be a fraction of his claim. Only a few weeks earlier he described Africans as ‘’spongers’.

Far-right and anti-immigrant groups are constantly distorting information on immigration in pursuit of their dismal agenda. For instance, they claim Ireland is being ‘flooded’ with immigrants.

It is true we have a high level of non-nationals living in Ireland. But what they don’t tell you is that over 20% come from the UK (including people from Northern Ireland) and other English-speaking countries. And many of these would be sons and daughters of Irish emigrants and working side by side with SIPTU members in our health service.

Of course, when the far Right talks about ‘immigrants’ and ‘foreigners’ they are referring to people from outside the EU and the US: Asians, Africans, South Americans and people from the Middle East. There are relatively few from these national groups living here in Ireland.

People from these regions make up only 2 % of the population. As for Africans – the target of Grealish’s vitriol – they make up only a fraction of the total population. And people from the Middle East, the target of Islamophobia, makes up even less. Another far Right claim is that immigrants come here to ‘live off the state’. This doesn’t hold up either.

In Ireland, unemployment among non-citizens is almost the same as the rate among citizens. In the EU the situation is much different, with non-citizens unemployment much higher. It should be pointed out that over recent years many EU countries (e.g. Germany, Sweden) welcomed a large number of people fleeing wars and deprivation.

It will take time to integrate these people into the domestic labour market. But the fact is that we have one of the best records of integrating non-nationals into our labour market. People don’t come here to sponge – they come here to work and make a better life for themselves. And in the process they help grow the economy which helps all of us.

One more trope of the Far Right is that we are being overrun with asylum-seekers or, as some would have it, ‘bogus’ asylum-seekers. Again, this is nonsense.

During the three years of the European migration crisis, 2015 to 2017, Ireland received 8,400 asylum applications. To put this in perspective, if asylum applications were at the EU average, we would proportionately have received nearly five times as many applications.

And while some argue we have a lax asylum regime, 61% of asylum applications are rejected, compared to an EU average of 45%.

All the claims of the Far Right and their allies collapse when we look at the reality. There are, however, many who get taken in by the claims and not because they are racist or anti-immigrant. Many are confused, hurting, looking for answers. Progressives must engage with this constituency with empathy, pointing out the reality and providing a better alternative for them, their families and their communities.

The Far Right – through its extremism and manipulation of facts – is trying to poison the immigration debate in order to polarise positions. In reality, they don’t want an informed debate on immigration. They want a shouting match. They hope, in this atmosphere, to make gains. We shouldn’t allow them that oxygen. We should challenge them at every turn.

And engage in an inclusive dialogue throughout society that can win people over to a positive message – about the economic, social and cultural benefits of immigration and the immigrants themselves.

Thank you for sharing our message online throughout 2019, for all the positive feedback, downloads and recommendations. Happy New Year. See you in 2020.

25/12/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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Christmas Message: This is our SIPTU

2019, has been an eventful year for our union. Thousands of our members have stood on picket lines together, won increases in pay together and taken to the streets to demand better action on climate change, housing and healthcare.

Our union is making a difference in improving the quality of the lives of our members through our effective industrial, organising and campaigning work and 2020 will be no different.

SIPTU members in the health service will receive a pay increase from 1st January, 2020, as part of the Public Service Agreement 2018-2020 which places a particular emphasis on raising the wages of lower paid workers.

  • Low paid public service workers who earn up to €32,000 per year will receive a basic pay increase of 0.5% with effect from 1st January 2020.
  • This is in addition to the 1.75% paid with effect from 1st September 2019 and will be boosted by a further 2% due on 1st October 2020.
  • In addition, the income of public service workers will be further increased on 1st January 2020 with a raising of the threshold on the Additional Superannuation Charge to €34,500 giving an increase of approximately €250 per annum.

In negotiations for the current Public Service Agreement, SIPTU representatives prioritised the need for pay increases for lower paid public service workers.
It is essential that these staff, who form the backbone of our public health services receive the recognition they deserve with pay increases which will allow them to better provide for themselves and their families.

SIPTU remains committed to increasing the standard of living of these workers in any future Public Service Agreements.

It goes without saying, that as a union we have a lot more to do to cover the lost ground suffered by many workers during the economic downturn. However, we are on the right track and must continue to assert our rights as a movement to ensure fairness at work and justice in society.

Our collective success relies completely on the energy and commitment of the many thousands of SIPTU activists in workplaces across the country.

As we prepare for a New Year and new challenges we can face them with confidence in the growing strength of our union.