15/01/2021 Comments are off SIPTU Health
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SIPTU says safe functioning of the health service in grave danger

SIPTU Health representatives have today (Friday, 15th January) said the Covid-19 infection rates of health care workers are unsustainable and putting the safe functioning of the health service in grave danger. 

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “Over 5,000 health workers have been infected with Covid-19 since Christmas. Four out of five infected are women and workers in support grades including Health Care Assistants, porters, catering assistants and home care workers are in the majority of those infected. This level of infection is completely unsustainable.

“Health workers across all grades are being decimated while this virus is raging out of control across our health service. It is clear that health care workers are not safe in work and the current rate of infection is putting the safe functioning of the service in grave danger. We are again calling for the immediate recruitment of additional and essential staff to assist all health workers on the frontline.”

He added: “While this data is alarming and a cause of real concern for our members its publication is to be welcomed. It provides public health officials and union representatives with an opportunity to map out realistic solutions and stronger workplace protections for all.”

12/01/2021 Comments are off SIPTU Health
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SIPTU concerned about delays for ambulances at emergency departments

SIPTU representatives have expressed concern that issues of bed capacity and overcrowding in hospital emergency departments (EDs) will continue to affect the work of the National Ambulance Service. They have called on the HSE to immediately fast track the recruitment of thousands of additional staff as a matter of urgency in the fight against Covid-19.

SIPTU Organiser, Ciaran Sheridan, said: “SIPTU members at Letterkenny University Hospital have reported that the situation in relation to delays to the admission of sick patients has slightly improved. However, there are concerns that the distressing scenes witnessed last Sunday will be repeated. In attempts to ensure availability of emergency ambulances we have sought details regarding resilience measures and the provision of additional resources to prevent, or alleviate, further delays.”

Don Brennan, an Advanced Paramedic and SIPTU Shop Steward said: “We are pre-hospital practitioners and to be parked up outside an ED providing care presents new challenges for us. It is not conducive to optimum patient care and increases the difficulties in providing an acceptable level of comfort.”

SIPTU Ambulance Sector Organiser, Miriam Hamilton, said that the issue of delays in handing over patients at hospitals is not new. 

“SIPTU members have previously demanded the introduction of an emergency hand-over protocol to assist ambulance crews who are unable to deliver patients to hospital staff due to overcrowding and lack of bed capacity. The lack of capacity in receiving hospitals is preventing our members in the NAS from doing their jobs. Trained ambulance professionals with highly equipped vehicles are sitting outside hospitals when we need them to be available to respond to emergencies in our communities,” she said.

08/01/2021 Comments are off SIPTU Health
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SIPTU says Minister for Health must act now to remove roadblocks to health service recruitment

SIPTU representatives have today (Friday, 8th January) urged the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, to immediately intervene and remove any roadblocks to health service recruitment as part of an emergency effort to address the unsustainable staffing crisis that is spreading right across the health service. 

SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “The current stress on our health services is completely unsustainable. Patient numbers are rising while staffing levels are falling. The Minister must act now and make sure recruitment is fast tracked to ensure health workers are supported in this hour of national emergency.” 

“The reality is that health staff shortages are everywhere. They are all across the board in acute settings, mental health services, care in the community and the National Ambulance Service, no area of care hasn’t been severely impacted upon in recent days from Covid-19 infections, symptoms or the challenges health workers are facing attending work due to care commitments. 

“There is a growing, distinct and deep frustration from our members that despite the fanfare, the Government, the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive (HSE) have not moved quick enough to recruit at least some of the 16,000 additional health workers they pledged as part of an additional €4 billion for the health service in Budget 2021.”

He added: “Over recent weeks, and as the spread of the virus has intensified, our members have also been left in the dark over how many health care workers have tested positive for Covid-19. The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) were producing weekly reports to give health workers and their representatives a fuller understanding of the infection rates in essential health settings but since Wednesday 23rd December there has been unacceptable silence. We would ask that the Minister would also rectify this as a matter of urgency.”

02/01/2021 Comments are off SIPTU Health
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SIPTU Health representatives urge HSE to guarantee proper childcare supports for frontline workers

SIPTU Health representatives have today (Saturday, 2nd January) called on the management of the Health Service Executive (HSE) to guarantee proper supports are immediately put in place to assist health workers with childcare commitments reporting for work when schools and pre-school services are closed across the country next week.  

SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “The decision to keep schools and pre-school services closed until Monday 11th January has created considerable uncertainty for workers and poses a significant challenge for our members working on the frontline of our hospitals, nursing homes and communities.

“As we enter the next critical phase of the pandemic and with transmission rates soaring, it is essential that the health service has all hands on deck. 

Over the last number of days, SIPTU Health representatives have worked with colleagues on the staff panel of unions to get a guarantee from the health service employers that arrangements are put in place to make sure all health workers with childcare commitments are fully supported in the weeks ahead.”

He added: “From the very start of this pandemic and through each lockdown health care workers have made every effort to have childcare arrangements in place enabling them to keep our health service going. The reality is that the decision to close these facilities has far reaching consequences for working parents in the health service. The employer has an obligation to make sure that this essential workforce can get to work and make sure our health service can cope with any potential surge in hospital admissions next week.” 

17/12/2020 Comments are off SIPTU Health
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SIPTU NEC recommends acceptance of proposals for a new Public Service Agreement

The National Executive Council (NEC) of SIPTU met today (Thursday, 17th December) to consider the proposals for an agreement on pay and related matters in the public service.

Having considered the details of the proposals it was decided to recommend them for acceptance by the union’s public service membership.

It was concluded that they represent reasonable progress towards the objective of advancing pay and recovering austerity measures imposed under the Haddington Road Agreement, namely restoration of overtime rates, premium payments and working time.

The current proposals in ‘Building Momentum 2021 – A New Public Service Agreement’ are structured in a manner that is consistent with the commitments and achievements of previous agreements which prioritise the position of lower and middle-income earners in the public service. 

Significantly, the proposals also retain the essential protections necessary to defend against the unilateral outsourcing of public service jobs and they provide for the creation of a sectoral bargaining fund as a mechanism to address a range of other issues.

If the proposal is accepted by SIPTU members in the public service, it is intended that negotiations on a successor agreement will take place during the early summer of 2022.

Accordingly, the National Executive Council of the union recommends acceptance in a secret ballot vote to be completed by Wednesday, 10th February 2021. The ballot will be conducted from mid-January 2021, following a period of extensive membership consultation and informed engagement with the membership on the content of the proposed agreement.

11/12/2020 Comments are off SIPTU Health
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Public Service Unions negotiate proposals for a two-year agreement

Representatives of public service unions and employers have agreed proposals for a two-year agreement to succeed the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA), which expires at the end of this month. The main elements of the proposed agreement were outlined by union negotiators at a meeting of the ICTU Public Services Committee (PSC) today (Friday) after negotiations at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) concluded in the early hours of this morning.

The team of four ICTU negotiators told the meeting that Building Momentum: A New Public Sector Agreement represented a positive short-term package, negotiated against a difficult background, to build on the momentum of recent pay restoration and public service flexibility and service quality.

They said the package, which would run from 1st January 2021 until 31st December 2022 if ratified, was substantially weighted towards lower-income civil and public servants, and had achieved solid progress on the three priorities set by the PSC at the outset of the talks. These were (1) a mechanism to address issues outstanding from the Haddington Road agreement, (2) a separate mechanism to address sectoral issues, and (3) a realistic and acceptable approach to pay.

Each of the public service unions affiliated to ICTU, which represents over 90% of public servants, will now give the proposals detailed consideration before putting the package to their members.

The main features of the proposals include:

Pay

  • A general round increase worth 1% of gross pay or €500 a year, whichever is the greater, on 1st October 2021. This means those on lower incomes will receive a significantly larger percentage increase than higher paid staff.
  • A second general round increase worth 1% of gross pay or €500 a year, whichever is the greater on 1st October 2022. This means those on lower incomes will receive a significantly larger percentage increase than higher paid staff.
  • Provision for the equivalent of a 1% increase in annualised basic salaries through a ‘sectoral bargaining fund’ (see below) on 1st February 2022.

Issues outstanding from the 2013 Haddington Road agreement

  • Recognition that certain measures introduced under the Haddington Road agreement (HRA) “are to be addressed and implemented” including:
  • The establishment of an independent body by the end of March 2021, to make recommendations to begin the process of returning to pre-Haddington Road hours, with €150 million available to commence implementation of the outcome during 2022, and provision for a successor agreement to engage on the roll-out of additional recommendations.
  • A resolution of the new entrant teacher issue, which will see those recruited since 1st January 2011 move from point 11 to point 13 of the pay scale, or move up one additional point.
  • Restoration of overtime and premium payments to pre-2013 levels.

Sectoral bargaining

  • The establishment of a ‘sectoral bargaining fund,’ initially worth 1% of basic pensionable pay during the lifetime of the agreement, to deal with outstanding adjudications, recommendations, awards and claims, with the option for groups to use the available allocation as a sectoral pay round.
  • The proposals outline how the ‘sectoral bargaining fund’ would operate, including an implementation process and compliance with “the maintenance of industrial peace.”

Maintaining the momentum for reform

  • The proposals acknowledge the recent “unprecedented display of commitment, flexibility, hard work and agility in public service provision” and pledge the parties to harness this momentum to meet the immediate challenges of 2021 and 2022 including the continuing response to Covid-19, a return to normal delivery of health services, ensuring that schools remain open and addressing challenges that arose for children during the crisis, managing the response to Brexit, establishing the public service as the driver of best practice on remote working, and addressing digitisation.
  • The package sets out measures to harness the potential for technology to improve service delivery.
  • The package sets out measures to improve access to services through reformed work practices, including enabling temporary reassignments where necessary and increasing the movement of staff across the public service where necessary.
  • The package sets out an implementation and reporting mechanism to ensure delivery of agreed reforms, including through sectoral action plans.

Outsourcing

  • The agreement retains existing safeguards on any proposed outsourcing of public service provision.

Service stability and industrial peace

  • The agreement sets out a detailed dispute resolution process, including an “industrial peace” clause in line with previous public service agreements.
  • There is provision to review the terms of the agreement “where the underlying assumptions of the agreement need to be revisited.”

Speaking after this morning’s meeting, the chair of the PSC, Kevin Callinan, said the proposals were the best outcome that could be achieved over the relatively short lifetime of the proposed deal. 

“This agreement builds on recent momentum to improve our public services and the lives of those who depend on and deliver them. The pay terms represent a realistic and acceptable approach to incomes, and they are substantially skewed towards lower earners in a very challenging context of limited resources.

“The ICTU team has also achieved a process to address sectoral issues, and a separate mechanism that will make real and substantial progress on the issues outstanding from the Haddington Road agreement, including its introduction of longer working hours that fell most heavily on women workers,” he said.

The PSC represents all ICTU-affiliated unions with members working in the civil and public service. Its officers, and lead negotiators, are Fórsa General Secretary Kevin Callinan, SIPTU Deputy General Secretary John King, INMO General Secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha, and INTO General Secretary John Boyle.

The PSC is to meet again early next week to consider the detail of the proposals. Each of the PSC unions is then expected to consult their members on the package.

SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, John King, also welcomed the proposals which will be considered by the National Executive Council (NEC) of the union and then go to a secret, postal ballot of all members in the public service.

“Following three weeks of negotiation, we have emerged with a set of proposals that we believe is the best that can be achieved for our members in the current circumstances. In particular, they continue the process of income progression for the lower paid and middle income workers in the public service and the return of hours removed under previous agreements. The detailed proposals will now be considered by the NEC of SIPTU before it goes to a postal ballot of members,” he said.

SIPTU seeks urgent meeting with HSE over its use of unsafe sanitiser.

SIPTU representatives have called for an urgent meeting with the management of the HSE following the shocking revelation that patients and staff have, for several months, been using an unsafe hand sanitiser at health facilities across the country.

SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, John King, said: “Our members across the country are very concerned at this shocking development. HSE and other health facilities are risky and dangerous enough for staff and patients coping with Covid 19 without there being health risks associated with the use of a hand sanitising product.

“It is particularly disturbing given the importance placed by public health authorities on effective and regular hand washing as an essential measure in helping to prevent the spread of the virus.

“SIPTU members have been instructed and advised to use the unsafe ViroPro product extensively over the last seven months.

“We are now seeking immediate engagement with the HSE in order to obtain an explanation about the circumstances which led to the procurement and use of a product containing methanol which can cause serious health conditions including dermatitis, eye and upper respiratory system irritation as well as headaches.”

“SIPTU members also need to know what safe and effective alternative sanitiser the health authorities are going to provide and when and how they intend to roll it out across the health system.

14/10/2020 Comments are off SIPTU Health
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SIPTU says linking budget funding increases to reform will ensure equitable recovery

SIPTU has called for the increased funding in Budget 2021 to assist the sectors worst hit by the Covid-19 pandemic to be linked to reforms to ensure improved working conditions and an equitable recovery.

SIPTU General Secretary, Joe Cunningham said: “While billions of euro are being spent to shore up the economy, the Government has failed in this budget to signpost its future direction. Short-term cash needs a long-term strategy if it is to be effective and efficient. 

“Additional cash subsidies to businesses and relief for those who depend on the PUP are very welcome. The commitment to halt the pension age increase to 67 is also welcome as is the promised investment in bed capacity and other healthcare initiatives. 

“However, we are in danger of repeating past mistakes. In the last VAT cut for the hospitality sector, profits grew exponentially while wages stagnated. Hospitality employers prospered on the back of state subsidies, low pay and poor working conditions. Subsidies should be linked to the establishment of a sectoral body so that employees and employers together can negotiate the most efficient use of public subsidies.”

SIPTU Economist, Michael Taft, said: “The Government is squandering a massive opportunity to transform the childcare sector. The State is already subsidising most of the expenditure in this sector but fees are still the highest in the EU while workers are some of the lowest paid. For very little extra the state should effectively take over workers’ wages and significantly reduce fees.

“There is a real danger that Budget 2021 will accelerate inequality. The failure to increase social protection, the paltry increase in the minimum wage and the regressive taxation measures that will affect low-income and low-paid workers most is a recipe for rising poverty and inequality.

“Ireland needs a considerable and sustained investment drive to confront the challenges of the pandemic, Brexit and climate change, not just for next year, but for the rest of the decade. The increase of €600 million over previous commitments in the National Development Plan is far less than what is required. The number of new houses arising from this budget looks set to be very small. We need to significantly increase our borrowing for public investment, especially at a time of zero interest rates.”  

He added: “The Government still has time to rectify these issues. It can increase investment, transform the childcare sector and support households out of the Recovery Fund.  

“The Government can also ensure full employee participation on the sectoral taskforces that it will announce in the upcoming National Economic Plan, starting with low-paid sectors.  Such participation will help ensure the best result in terms of recovery and restructuring. We need a democratically accountable recovery.”

09/10/2020 Comments are off SIPTU Health
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SIPTU calls for mandatory sick pay scheme to cover full income of ill workers

SIPTU economist, Michael Taft, has called for the introduction of a mandatory sick pay scheme which ensures that workers receive their full income while they are out of work due to illness.

Speaking at a Webinar entitled ‘Healing our Sick Pay System’ and hosted by SIPTU, he said: “A mandatory sick pay scheme must be available for all workers regardless of the sector or company in which they work. Payments from the scheme should cover their full income while they are out sick.”  

Laura Bambrick, social policy officer for ICTU told the Webinar that the Republic of Ireland is one of only four EU countries that does not have a mandatory sick pay scheme.

“In other countries, employers are obliged to provide sick pay at 100 percent of pay for a number of weeks per year to every employee.  In this jurisdiction, there is no legal requirement on employers to provide sick pay.  This situation can force many workers to continue working while sick because they cannot afford to take time off.  This is why ICTU is calling for a mandatory sick pay scheme similar to that which operates in the vast majority of other EU countries.  Recent opinion polls show overwhelming support for this call,’ she said.

Referring to the majority of employees in the private, community and voluntary sectors, Michael Taft added:

“Between 800,000 and one million workers do not have a sick pay scheme in work. This means they are totally reliant on a woefully inadequate Illness Benefit from the Department of Social Protection.  A mandatory sick pay scheme should be largely funded by employers through increased PRSI. Irish levels of employers’ social insurance is less than half the EU average.”

Other speakers at the Webinar included community worker, Lynda Scully and manufacturing worker, John Montgomery, both of whom are members of the SIPTU National Executive Council.

“In the community sector, people who work side-by-side doing the same work can be treated differently when it comes to sick pay, depending on their source of funding.  Some might have sick pay and others might not.  This creates an arbitrary and unfair discrimination,” Lynda Scully said.

“In many manufacturing employments, it can take a week for workers to access the Illness Benefit payment which is very small. This means that workers either come into work while they are sick or they take time off and lose their pay,” John Montgomery told the Webinar.

The speakers welcomed the Government’s stated commitment to introduce a statutory sick pay system next year. However, they warned that opposition from employer groups could result in a watered down sick pay proposal and said that trade union members need to mobilise workers and the wider public to campaign for a new sick pay scheme.

07/10/2020 Comments are off SIPTU Health
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Targeted industrial action campaign planned across Section 39 organisations

SIPTU, Fórsa and INMO representatives held an emergency meeting today (Wednesday, 7th October) to agree the next steps in a targeted campaign of industrial action to secure pay justice for thousands of Section 39 workers. 

The meeting was called to discuss correspondence received by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions from Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath TD declining an invitation to intervene in this long-running dispute involving frontline workers providing community, health and disability services. 

SIPTU Public Administration and Community Division Organiser, Adrian Kane, said: “The decision of the Minister to wash his hands of this dispute not only beggars belief but has left a bitter taste in the mouths of our members. These are the very same workers who made sure essential services have been maintained throughout this Covid-19 pandemic. The appetite on the ground for a sustained period of targeted industrial action can no longer be wished away by the Government. Consultation meetings for industrial action in the Cork region will commence immediately beginning with South-Doc and Co-Action. Our members are determined to see this campaign through until the end and secure a fair outcome.”

Concerns were also raised at the meeting that some of the 50 Section 39 organisations involved in the first tranche of pay restoration due on 1st October under an agreement secured by unions in 2019 have cited potential funding challenges and are now claiming an inability to honour the agreement. 

Fórsa official Catherine Keogh said the union had identified a number of Section 39 employments for which the union’s divisional executive has sanctioned a ballot for industrial action. These are:

  • National Council of the Blind 
  • Delta Centre 
  • Moorehaven 
  • Camphill Communities 
  • Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ireland 
  • National Guide Dogs for the Blind 
  • De Paul 
  • Ard Aoibhinn 
  • South Doc
  • Valentia Community Health and Welfare Association 
  • St Joseph’s Home, Killorglin 
  • Western Alzheimer’s 
  • Co Action Ireland

Ms Keogh said union members continued to provide a range of health services to the community throughout the Covid pandemic, but that the Department of Health, the HSE and the Government have effectively turned their backs on these workers. 

“These are workers providing essential services who haven’t had the luxury of turning their backs on their responsibilities. They continue to fight for modest pay restoration measures, already agreed in other Section 39 employments. They deserve a swift and decisive response that shows their work is valued,” she said.

SIPTU Health Industrial Organiser, Damian Ginley said: “A decision was taken by the unions that should employers fail to meet the terms of this agreement then union members across these organisations would be left with no choice but to ballot for industrial action. We are calling on the Government to back up their applause for essential frontline workers, to put their money where their mouth is and provide necessary funding to make sure all Section 39 workers get the pay justice they deserve.”