07/11/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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Salary protection offer for SIPTU Health Care Assistants

SIPTU members working as Health Care Assistants can now exclusively avail of a salary protection scheme with Cornmarket.

Members may apply to join the SIPTU Health Care Assistants Salary Protection Scheme if they work in the following areas:

  • A hospital, owned and funded by the HSE and a member of one of the HSE seven hospital groups
  • A voluntary public hospital and a member of one of the HSE seven hospital groups
  • A private hospital affiliated to the private hospitals association
  • A public health facility or care centre operated by the HSE
  • A Section 38 organisation

 

03/11/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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Different paths to success

Later today, the team which has dominated League of Ireland football in recent years will clash with the most successful club in its history when Dundalk FC meet Shamrock Rovers in the final of the FAI Cup. Dundalk beat Rovers to win the League at Oriel Park in September.

The game will round off a good season for domestic football, which has seen growing attendances and a real buzz developing around some clubs that have focused on re-invigorating the connection with their local community.

The largest league attendance of the year was 7,021 in August at Tallaght Stadium to see Rovers finally defeat their bitter cross city rivals Bohemian FC in a league fixture for the first time in nine attempts.

Many other games around the country have seen the 3,000-attendance mark broken, indicating a growth of interest in a league that five years ago was only seeing attendances of just over 1,000 even at some of the larger clubs.

The turnaround in terms of support for the two old Dublin clubs, whose attendances have both considerably grown over the last three years, has been brought about by two different models of growth.

The backroom management at Rovers have focused on presenting a professional image of its club, with investment in the first team squad and resulting success on the pitch utilised to reconnect with arguably the country’s biggest fan base. Rovers’ rivals in the FAI Cup Final, Dundalk, are similarly a testament to how professionalisation and success on the pitch can build a football club.

Dundalk F.C. is owned by US investment company Peak6, who until very recently also owned the English Premiership side, Bournemouth. The money from this source has allowed for serious investment in playing staff which in turn has seen Dundalk win the last two league titles.

In contrast, Bohemians has adopted a very different model of community-based development, which has seen attendances grow while on-pitch success has been more measured. Bohemian FC Commercial Manager, Daniel Lambert, said: “Bohs has always been a member owned club. For many years this made them quite a conservative institution in some ways, such as not having a professional team until the 1970s.

“The 1990s/2000s saw this change with a group of people with banking and business back- grounds becoming prominent in the running of the club. A number of unsuccessful property plays undertaken by this group, albeit with the required member approval, promised to build it into a multi-million euro enterprise but in reality threatened the club’s very existence.”

Lambert likens the state of the club when he and the current crop of directors came to the fore “as like someone sitting in a big old country house and it is falling apart around you”.

Their response was reinvigorating the club’s links with communities in Dublin 7 through growth in their youth teams, both boys and girls, becoming all volunteer staffed and other overtly political stances such as taking a stand in support of the Equality Referendum in 2015.

“We’re essentially/structurally a GAA club that plays football”, says Lambert, “No one is paid. It is all committees and subcommittees. We have taken on an unashamedly progressive position with initiatives that have included support for gay rights, murals celebrating working class culture and a fan funded scheme which pays for asylum seekers in direct provision to attend every home game. A similar scheme has now been adopted by Shamrock Rovers.”

Lambert added: “I see this approach stemming directly from the way the club is member owned and has no capacity in its structure for personal profit. It’s in my view inherently left wing and totally against what football has become globally in terms of big business.”

While other League of Ireland clubs such as Sligo rovers have also succeeded by developing their community links, the current fate of Cork City FC is a more cautionary tale. It is a member owned enterprise which both solidified its community links while also investing big on the pitch. In a case of overreach the club had to cut back and after several years at the top battling Dundalk for League and Cup titles, it now lies below mid- table with attendances nearly half what they were in recent seasons.

01/11/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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Home help services in Dublin and Wicklow facing potential strike action

Home help services in parts of Dublin and Wicklow are facing potential strike action in the run up to Christmas which could result in disruption for thousands of people.

SIPTU Health representatives said ahead of a meeting in the Irish Congress of Trade Unions that members are in dispute with eight organisations in Dublin and Wicklow, which provide home-help services under agreements with the Health Service Executive, over the restoration of payments which had been cut following the economic crash.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser Paul Bell said the union would now ballot members in these organisations – known technically as Section 39 bodies – for strike action. He said this process would be completed by the end of November and if the ballot was passed, this could lead to strike action in the run up to Christmas.

Mr Bell said there were between 1,500 and 1,800 members of SIPTU working for these organisations, providing home-help services for thousands of people across Dublin and Wicklow.

Many employees in Section 39 bodies had their incomes reduced to varying degrees when public service pay was cut during the economic crisis between 2010 and 2013. Unions have contended that such cuts were introduced by Section 39 organisations at the direction of the HSE.

A pilot review of 50 of the 300 Section 39 organisations found the average pay cut had been 4.66 per cent across the sector. It also found there were variations on the level of pay restorations that had taken place.

Under a deal reached between the union and the Government last May, a process was put in place to facilitate the restoration of pay for staff in Section 39 organisations in the group of 50 bodies that were covered by the pilot project.

As part of this agreement, staff were to receive a payment of up to €1,000 with effect from the end of April.

From October 1st, 2020, affected Section 39 staff were to receive half of the outstanding restoration payment, with the remaining balance to be paid one year later. This would place the workers back on the salaries they were on before the original cuts.

26/10/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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Sunday Read: Building an alliance for public housing

Some commentators are cheering the fact that Dublin house prices are ‘moderating’, ‘slowing down’, ‘levelling off’ or some such. Such cheers may be premature.

In Dublin, demand may be slowing for two reasons: one, an affordability ceiling has been hit with fewer and fewer people able to afford an average-priced €400,000 house. Second, more people are becoming nervous about committing to a long-term expenditure with all this Brexit uncertainty about.

The problem is that if demand starts to weaken, developers could reduce supply, leaving prices high. Sound strange? That’s how markets work.And outside Dublin, house price growth is still outstripping inflation and wage growth.

  • And rents are still rising.
  • And homelessness remains at more than 10,000 for the sixth month in a row.
  • And, of course, the Minister for Housing still maintains government policies are working

Yet, while all the failures of Government housing policy are well- known, housing struggles to move up the political agenda. This is despite the fact that, according to the Eurobarometer, housing is the biggest issue of concern apart from the healthcare system.

The key question is how to generate political traction from the high level of concern. There are two key points here. First, there is a substantial number of people in housing need – but those needs impact in different ways. The needs of a homeless family are different from the needs of those facing high rents or attempting to buy a home.

Second, the crisis is not experienced uniformly across the country and age groups. Nearly 70% of people live in owner-occupied houses. Though they may experience vicarious need through their children or relatives, they are not homeless, are not renting on the private market, and seeking to buy a house.

Even the issue of affordability is not experienced equally throughout the country.

In the Midlands, rent for a one-bedroom house/apartment averages less than €600 per month – half the level of Dublin rents (though Mid- land rents can still be a burden on the low-paid). In much of the country outside the main urban areas, house prices are much more affordable.

This suggests we should give additional focus to critical constituencies – young workers (under 35s) in the main urban areas who are at ground zero in the private rental sector or are trying to save up to buy a house. More than 50% of under-35s are in the private rental sector, while only 11% of over-35s are renting privately.

In urban areas facing the rent crisis, this figure is even higher. Nearly two-thirds of under-35s rent in Dublin city, rising to over 70% in Galway. And it is within the under-35s that we will find the highest proportion of those seeking to buy a house for the first time. Statistics won’t capture the full picture. More young people are remaining at home because they can’t afford the rents or are saving up for a house.

And many of those renting outside Dublin are actually working in Dublin. They have moved out because of high rents, which has implications for environmental sustainability and life quality.

To rehabilitate the image of public housing, to show that public housing is not for ‘the poor’ but for all – this could help mobilise younger workers be- hind a new programme of cost- rental and cost-purchase housing.

This is not to downplay the issues of homelessness and waiting lists – just the opposite. Those in extreme housing need have the least political and economic power. They need allies to get public housing on the agenda. To win over young workers (along with their families and peer group) to public housing would be a great boost to all those in need.

And most of all it could help combat that most pernicious of ideas – that high rents and high house prices are the new norm, that they are somehow ‘natural’, and that political action is futile.

The housing crisis arose out of national policies put in place by national politicians. It can be ended – by building the broadest possible alliance of those in housing need.

Young workers are key to this fightback. The trade union led Raise the Roof campaign is best placed to mobilise this group.

23/10/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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SIPTU plan to ballot for strike action in Section 39 organisations

SIPTU representatives have today (Wednesday, 23rd October) said that they are preparing to ballot members in some Section 39 organisations for strike action following the refusal of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) to fully honour a recent pay restoration agreement.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “The decision to prepare a ballot our members followed a scheduled meeting between SIPTU representatives with officials from the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive at the Workplace Relation Commission earlier today. At this meeting it was announced that the Department has refused to apply pay restoration to thousands of health workers employed in a variety of Section 39 organisations.

“The decision by the Department to turn its back on a deal that was brokered earlier this year will not be tolerated by our members. We now intend to immediately identify all the organisations where workers have not yet benefited from the pay restoration agreement and prepare to ballot them for strike action.

“We also intend to meet next week with our colleagues from other unions to chart a way forward that will resolve this dispute in a manner which is fair for workers while minimising the potential impact of a strike on service users.

“The number of members involved in this dispute is roughly 6,000. The amount of money the Department requires to fairly resolve it is under €7 million.”

He added: The continued refusal to fairly treat these vital community health workers, who work in areas such as home care, dementia and alzheimer services, is unacceptable.”

20/10/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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Supplementary budget needed whatever the outcome of Brexit

The emergency budget introduced in October to deal with the impact of Brexit on the economy should be revisited if the latest agreement between the UK and EU is endorsed by the Westminster Parliament.

Budget 2020 is deficient in numerous ways but in four critical areas there is urgent action needed by the Government.

The failure to raise the minimum wage and the state pension means that the incomes of some of the most vulnerable are being cut in real terms. This situation must be rectified.

Budget 2020 is also lacking in any real attempt to solve the worsening housing and health crisis.

The promise of approximately €1.1 billion investment in extra social housing does not live up to its billing when examined, it also does nothing to deal with the structural issues underlying the crisis.

What the Minister must do is once again empower, through funding and recruitment, local authorities to provide for housing needs in their areas in line with the core demand of the SIPTU backed ‘Raise the Roof’ campaign.

Budget 2020 was an opportunity to support decent pay for educators in childcare and introduce a Living Wage. Instead, the Government chose to ignore the crisis of low pay and staffing in this vital sector.

A supplementary budget must grasp this opportunity to improve childcare so future generations in Ireland receive the best start possible.

13/10/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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St Vincent’s workers ‘deserve better’ as SIPTU justice campaign steps up

SIPTU members in St Vincent’s Centre in Cork took their campaign for justice directly to the Office of the Revenue Commissioners last week.

SIPTU Industrial Organiser, Sharon Cregan, said: “We took our campaign directly to the Revenue offices in an effort to highlight this injustice. We had a great turnout and our members are determined to get a result. It is unacceptable that loyal workers who provide such a vital community service should be left to remain in employment limbo while management and Government can ignore us. Despite the fact that our members pay PRSI they are being denied vital access to basic social welfare entitlements, such as dental and optical benefits.

It is not right and it is not fair. These workers deserve better.”

St Vincent’s, is a Section 39 organisation, was previously governed by the Sisters of Charity. A proposal for the workers to be transferred to the COPE Foundation was put forward in the autumn of 2018 following an interim arrangement with the HSE.

09/10/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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SIPTU conference calls on Government to lift health service recruitment embargo

SIPTU delegates have voted unanimously in favour of a call on the Government to lift the embargo on recruitment into the health services and to immediately fill all vacate positions at the union’s Biennial Conference taking place in City Hall, Cork, today (9th, October).

Proposing an emergency motion on the issue, SIPTU Health Division President, Broc Delaney, said: “The HSE is operating a recruitment embargo across all grades in the health service and related agencies. Across the country, hundreds of vacancies exist throughout the health service, posts which have been identified by managers delivering services and approved on paper for immediate filling.”

He added: “Notwithstanding the appalling impact on sick and vulnerable people the embargo is also creating a dynamic for outsourcing of health services to the private sector and breaching protections which were hard fought for in public service agreements. The pressure on existing health service staff has brought them to breaking point. The concern of our members for their patients and those in their care is driving this call for a complete lifting of the staffing embargo.”

08/10/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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SIPTU criticises contradictory and regressive Budget

SIPTU General Secretary designate, Joe Cunningham, has said that Budget 2020 is muddled, contradictory and regressive.

“Workers paid for the banking crisis and the budgetary crisis.  Now it seems our members and other workers are expected to pay for Brexit and the climate crisis. In our view the budget is muddled, contradictory and regressive,” Joe Cunningham said.

“Unless there is strict accountability, the Brexit fund promised in the Budget 2020 could become a massive handover to employers.  All the stakeholders – employees, employers and the State – must be involved in the design, monitoring and evaluation of any spending from this fund.   It is crucial that good faith employers’ – those employers that participate in, and abide by, the state’s industrial relations machinery – be given particular preference.”

“They have projected falling investment and housing construction in a ‘no-deal’ scenario.  Yet, it has not taken the opportunity to spend even a small portion of the €20 billion in state savings to build more public housing.  Such investment would not only be a boost to the productive economy through lower rents, it also would be a proper response to falling growth. The increase in the Housing Assistance Payment to landlords in the budget is twice as much as the cost of projected social housing construction. This is a continuation of a failed housing policy. Instead of a State, local authority led investment programme to build public and affordable housing the Government is relying on the private sector and landlords to resolve the housing emergency. It will not work.

“Under these proposals, most recipients of social protection will suffer real cuts in their living standards as inflation, including the carbon tax increase, erodes the value of their weekly rates.

“The Government’s carbon tax increase fails on two grounds.  It is not sufficient to change behaviour, but it will impact negatively on the vast majority of low and average income groups.  The increase in fuel allowance only affects one-in-three social protection recipients and does not benefit those in work.  This budget will not promote either climate justice or Just Transition notwithstanding the commitment to provide €30 million for communities which depend on peat production in the Midlands.

“SIPTU members are particularly disappointed at the Government’s failure to address the crisis in childcare.  Ireland has one of the highest levels of childcare fees in the EU, while early educators are among the lowest paid.”

07/10/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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SIPTU and USI strengthen relationship with new agreement on joint campaigns

SIPTU and the Union of Students of Ireland (USI) have today (Monday, 7th October) announced the renewal of an agreement between the two organisations to facilitate joint campaigns and provide third level students with support in the workplace.

The agreement was formally announced by the SIPTU General Secretary Designate, Joe Cunningham, at the union’s Biennial Delegate Conference in City Hall, Cork. It provides for joint actions, mutual support and the development of a closer relationship between the two organisations into the future.

SIPTU Head of Strategic Organising and Campaigns, Darragh O’Connor, said: “Among the initiatives that are being launched as part of the agreement is the ability of USI members to utilise SIPTU support services in relation to issues in the workplace. The organisations will also jointly run a ‘Rights at Work’ campaign.”

USI Deputy President and Vice President for Campaigns, Michelle Byrne, said: “Students are the workers of today and tomorrow. Many are putting themselves through higher education by working part time jobs and once graduated all will continue into the workforce. It is important that students understand the benefits of the partnership between USI and SIPTU. All students who are members of Students Unions who are affiliated with USI will gain access to the benefits of SIPTU membership.

“Students and workers have a fantastic history of galvanising together as one force. Through the partnership of USI and SIPTU, we look forward to continuing this trend into the future. Workers’ rights are students’ rights.”

SIPTU General Secretary Designate, Joe Cunningham, said: “Today, we have renewed the agreement between SIPTU and USI that has been in place for over ten years. This agreement further strengthens the relationship between students and union members. It provides the potential for even greater cooperation between SIPTU and USI and the wider trade union movement on the great issues that affect students, workers and society.”