Resounding majority of SIPTU members vote to support new Public Sector Pay Agreement

SIPTU members throughout the public service have voted by a resounding majority to accept the proposed new Public Sector Pay Agreement 2024 – 2026 in a ballot counted today (Thursday, 21st March) at centres in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

Speaking at the count centre in Liberty Hall in Dublin, SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, John King, said: “More than 90% of votes cast by our members were in favour of the proposed new Public Sector Pay Agreement. This agreement would signify a marked improvement in pay for public service workers, it also safeguards against job outsourcing and the privatisation of services.

“In addition, a clause within the deal provides a mechanism to address local claims and disputes within the public service. Our members have decided that the agreement goes someway to addressing the cost of living and inflation challenges facing them. It also provides for a degree of enhancement of their terms and conditions of employment.”

He added: “SIPTU representatives will present this mandate at the ICTU Public Services Committee meeting scheduled for Monday, 25th March. The rejection or acceptance of the agreement by members of ICTU-affiliated unions in the public service will be determined by the aggregating of the results of all the ballots conducted by the individual unions. This result is expected to be known next Monday.”

SIPTU calls for Community Nursing Unit in Nenagh to be used for original purpose

SIPTU members in St. Conlon’s Community Nursing Unit (CNU) in Nenagh, County Tipperary, have expressed deep concern at reports that a new building that was to cater for residents may instead be used as a step-down facility for University Hospital Limerick patients.

SIPTU Organiser, Mark Quinn, said: “Our members at St. Conlon’s CNU were preparing to move residents to the new state-of-the-art facility. However, they are concerned by media reports that the facility will now not be used for its original purpose but rather as a step-down facility for University Hospital Limerick patients. Their concern has been further heightened by suggestions that a private provider will manage the step-down facility.

“The reports that the newly built facility will not be used for its original purpose is also of grave concern to St. Conlon’s CNU residents and the wider community. The idea that a private company will provide services out of a state-of-the-art building, which has been built using significant state funding, is extraordinary.

“This is all the more disheartening when it is considered that the building project progressed following concerns raised by the Health Information and Quality Authority regarding St. Conlon’s CNU and its current suitability to adequately provide services for residents.”

He added: “SIPTU has raised its objections to this plan formally with the HSE and is awaiting a response. We have made our intention clear that we will use all options available to us as a Union to secure the best possible outcome for the staff of St. Conlon’s CNU, the residents that depend on its services and the broader community of Nenagh”.

Recruitment crisis in cancer services staff resulting in lifesaving machines lying idle

SIPTU representatives have highlighted that a lack of recruitment by the HSE of radiation therapists has resulted in lifesaving machines for treating cancer patients being left idle in hospitals in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

Speaking at the ‘Next Steps for Cancer Services in Ireland Seminar’ on Thursday (7th March) SIPTU National Radiation Therapist Executive member, Olivia Brereton, said that “the staffing crisis is having a devastating impact on our services”.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Mr John McCamley, said: “At least six machines are lying unused in services across the country including St. Luke’s Oncology Network in Dublin, Cork University Hospital, and Galway University Hospital. This is down to a lack of radiation therapists on staff to operate the machines.

“Every time a machine lies idle, it means someone’s access to cancer treatment is delayed. Under the National Cancer Strategy, the timeframe from cancer diagnosis to commencing treatment should be three weeks. Ireland is not currently meeting that target.”

He added: “As a union, SIPTU has highlighted the need to address the staffing crisis through the progression of the radiation therapy review, and a comprehensive strategy for retaining experienced staff. We also want to see an expansion of undergraduate and postgraduate places to increase recruitment of radiation therapists and support for students during clinical placement”.

Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment. This treatment uses beams of high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. Modern methods of radiation delivery require high accuracy. Radiation beams are directed at the tumours while healthy tissue is protected from high doses of radiation.

SIPTU NEC recommends acceptance of proposals for new Public Service Agreement

The National Executive Council (NEC) of SIPTU met today (Thursday 31st January) to consider the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) proposals for a new ‘Public Service Agreement 2024 – 2026’.

SIPTU representatives, along with colleagues in the Public Services Committee of the ICTU, have been in discussions over the last few months with the Department of Public Expenditure, NDP and Reform for a new Public Service Agreement. Following a period of intense engagement over the 25th and 26th January, a set of proposals were negotiated that will provide long lasting pay benefits to our members that are structured in a way that will assist them in dealing with the cost of living and inflationary crisis.

The proposals also provide for mechanisms to normalise industrial relations in the public service, a bargaining mechanism to allow workers deal with their grade related issues and, significantly, include procedures that protect our members against unilateral outsourcing.

The NEC, having considered the details of the proposals, decided that they should be put to a ballot of SIPTU members in the Public Service and Section 38 Agencies with a recommendation for acceptance.

The pay proposals secured by SIPTU and the other unions in these negotiations are crucially structured in a manner that is consistent with the outcome of previous agreements which prioritise the position of lower and middle-income earners.

If these proposals are accepted, SIPTU members will be covered by the provisions of this Public Service Agreement until the end of June, 2026.

Accordingly, the SIPTU National Executive Council recommends acceptance of these proposals which will be put to a vote of all our members in the public service in a secret ballot to be held over the period Monday, 12th February to Wednesday, 20th March, 2024.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Staff our Services and end the HSE Recruitment Freeze – SIPTU

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

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

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

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

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

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

Health and community workers back WRC pay proposals

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

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

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

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

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

SIPTU acknowledges invitation to public sector pay talks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ashley Connolly, National Secretary, Fórsa said:

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

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