04/04/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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SIPTU representatives demand DPER fund job evaluation scheme

SIPTU Health representatives have today (Thursday, 4thApril) demanded that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform allocate funds to implement the findings of a job evaluation scheme for up to 7000 support workers in hospitals across the country.

The move follows a meeting between SIPTU representatives and the Health Service Executive and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform officials in Dublin today. The job evaluation scheme agreed under the Lansdowne Road Agreement assessed whether the roles of the staff in question had changed in any way that may entitle them to an upgrade. The grades under assessment included Health Care Assistants, Maternity Care Assistants, Laboratory Aides and Surgical Instrument Technicians.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “The meeting was frustrating in the extreme. However, one sliver of hope for our members is that the HSE accepted the findings of the job evaluation scheme. However, until the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform allocate funds our members will remain underpaid for the work they do. Members are resolute in their determination to see this process over the line and receive the benefits that the findings of the scheme set out.

“Our members signed up to the scheme in good faith and have been waiting patiently for Government to get off its hands. Their patience has worn thin. They want to take action. They also believe that the refusal to implement the findings of the scheme strikes another blow to our members’ confidence in the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA).”

At the meeting, SIPTU representatives also made the case to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to implement and fund the findings of a review into chefs pay in the health service.

He added: “We made our position very clear to management. Chefs have played by the rules, went through due process and are now due a fair hearing on why they should be migrated onto a craft worker pay scale. So far, management has refused to engage in any meaningful way with union representatives. It is unacceptable and our members are rightly and rapidly losing confidence in their employer and want to take action.”

04/04/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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Labour Court recommendation on nursing and midwifery contract

This is an important update following receipt of the second Labour Court Recommendation in relation to the Enhanced Nurse/Midwife contract.

As you will note, SIPTU expressed our opposition following receipt of the draft contract from the HSE and relevant Government departments several weeks ago. This draft contract was prepared by the HSE and Government departments following issue of the original Labour Court recommendation.

The draft contract originating from the first Labour Court recommendation had several offending proposals including:

  • a requirement for acceptance that nurses/midwives could be rostered to work in a location within 45kms of their existing workplace or
  • rosters from 4hour duration would be issued for nurses and midwives

As no agreement could be agreed on these points, a second referral to the Labour Court proceeded. This resulted in the receipt of the second recommendation yesterday.

Having reviewed the contents of the second recommendation, SIPTU is clear that we do not want our members to be subject to any misunderstanding, confusion or misleading information relating to the proposed contract for enhanced nurses or midwives.

We are making this point as, while we have a second recommendation from the Court:

  1. We have not received formal confirmation from employers’ bodies that they accept the recommendation
  2. We have not received a draft of the revised contract which would incorporate the recommended changes in the second Labour Court recommendation received yesterday
  3. We believe it is essential that an engagement proceeds with the HSE/Govt Departments in the first instance to ensure there is a common and agreed understanding on the recommendations of the Labour Court and how they will be interpreted in a new contract of employment for nurses and midwives.

It should be noted within the Labour Court recommendation received yesterday, it states:

  • Location: ‘This may require you to provide services at other places of work on a regular/intermittent basis as required by the employer. Any transfer to another place of work will be in accordance with this contract, employer policies and National Agreements in place from time to time.’
  • Hours of Work: ‘Rostering arrangements may be changed from time to time in line with clinical and/or service need as determined by the Employer. You will be notified of rosters at least 4 weeks prior to their taking effect other than where there is a requirement for the employer to amend the roster to respond to unplanned clinical need.’

These points are made as we have already experienced key differences of opinion in the implementation of the first Labour Court recommendation.

Had they been introduced, these differences would have had a detrimental effect on the conditions of employment of nurses and midwives, their working lives and family/social commitments.

Accordingly, prior to ballot, SIPTU will be contacting relevant HSE/Govt Departments today to seek an urgent engagement on an updated draft of the proposed contract of employment for enhanced nurse or midwife.

We are seeking to ensure that our members have all information prior to a ballot including receipt of a copy of the draft contract to which they would be asked to commit. We trust this update is of assistance to you.

Attached here is a copy of the Labour Court recommendation for consideration.

03/04/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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SIPTU response to Labour Court recommendation on nursing and midwifery dispute

SIPTU has today (Wednesday, 3rd April) received the latest of two Labour Court recommendations aimed at resolving issues in dispute concerning nurses and midwives.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “In the coming days we will be convening a meeting of the members of the National Nurses and Midwives Sector Committee. At this meeting, the challenges presented by this latest recommendation will be fully considered which in turn will allow us to guide our members accordingly.”

He added: “The union is also currently in the process of communicating the contents of the Labour Court recommendation to all our members in the sector. We will issue a further statement in due course.”

30/03/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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No excuse for pulling back on projects

If ever we needed a reminder of the legacy of the crash, it has been the response to the cost overruns to the National Children’s Hospital.

Despite the public finances now being in surplus and the cost of public borrowing remaining at a historical low, it is remarkable that so many buy into the notion that a cost overrun in one area of spending has to be made up for by cutting back on much needed projects elsewhere.

Last month, we heard that €100 million has to be reduced from the health budget to upgrade maternity units and elderly care facilities among others. The cost over-run caused by “low-balling” or under-representing the true cost of the tender bid is now presented as something of a new phenomenon. It is not.

Standard practice over the past decade in most major public private partnerships across advanced countries has been to include penalty clauses for cost over-runs. It appears that no such clause applied to the National Children’s Hospital project.

What is more worrying is that lax practices within one project have now ensured that punishment will be inflicted on many other, long-awaited and much needed ones. This is the classic accountant’s response to a cost over-run. But this is a society and economy we live in, not a business.

What the Government calls “prudence” in terms of its management of the public finances is little more than conservative accounting practice – it is designed to manage the public finances in the here and now. This mindset is not solely confined to health infrastructure. It also prevails in official thinking on housing. Local authorities cannot borrow directly from the Housing Finance Agency but instead have to seek approval from the Department of Housing.

This centralised approval system means there is a major blockage in the system in approving access to finance for local authorities because such borrowing is added to the stock of national debt. The stock of national debt is frequently portrayed as a major concern and risk factor for the Irish economy.

Yes, the total volume of debt as a share of modified gross national income is above where we would like it to be but the far more important metric is the cost of servicing and timing of the refinancing of that debt. Just think about your mortgage – the vast majority of us would be crippled if the full loan was called in immediately.

Rather it is our ability to pay the monthly loan repayments that is important. It is vital to understand that most references to the national debt are designed to distract from the true nature of the public finances in Ireland at this point in time.

The reality is that money is available now to deliver on long awaited and major infrastructural investments, but only if the Government chooses to do this. This is not a call for across-the board spending hikes.

Instead, it is a call to deliver on current and capital projects that will ultimately expand the productive capacity of our economy and improve the quality of life for workers and all those living here. Planned exchequer surpluses over the next half a decade should not be a badge of honour. The EU’s fiscal rules do not require budgetary surpluses and the Government’s commitment to them reflects the myopic thinking that it has with regard the very substantial housing and demographic challenges that lay ahead.

Despite the fanfare surrounding the new National Development Plan which is costed at €116 billion over a 10-year period, the actual additional financial commitment over and above what is currently being spent is relatively modest.

Capital spending in 2027 will only be €5.8bn higher compared to 2018. This comes in a period where the Government is planning to generate cumulative exchequer surpluses of up to €12.7 billion between 2020-2023.

There can be no doubt that the threats to our public finances are very real, whether from Brexit, international tax recommendations by the OECD or a sudden change in corporate tax revenues here. But a threat is no excuse for pulling back on planned projects when they are necessary, when failure to act will cost more over the long run and when the money is actually available.

29/03/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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SIPTU members employed as support staff in major hospitals to ballot for strike action

SIPTU representatives have today (Friday, 29th March) confirmed that more than 7,000 support grade staff will be balloted for strike action next month.

The move follows a decision by the SIPTU Support Sector Committee at its Annual General Meeting in Liberty Hall yesterday (Thursday, 28th March) to take action in response to an ongoing dispute concerning pay awards granted under agreed job evaluation processes.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell said: “It is both disappointing and regrettable that the Government made a decision to frustrate an agreement which it freely entered into under the Lansdowne Road Agreement in 2015. It has frustrated the agreed job evaluation process and refused to engage on the findings. Both evaluation processes categorically confirm that our members have been underpaid for many years and should be entitled to migrate to pay scales which recognise their contribution to the provision of essential health services across the length and breadth of our country.

Pay adjustments due through the up-gradings range from 5% to 7% mainly applying to Health Care Assistants, Maternity Care Assistants, Laboratory Aides and Surgical Instrument Technicians. It is understood that monies are due to these workers since September and October 2018 the date which Phase 1 and 2 of the Support Staff Job Evaluation was completed. It is clear from the Public Service Stability Agreement and the terms of the Support Staff Job Evaluation procedure that engagement and implementation of any upgrade awarded be applied within eight weeks. Despite the determined efforts of SIPTU representatives to engage on this matter the Health Service Executive and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform have sidestepped their obligations.”

He added: “Approximately 1,000 chefs employed in the HSE and related agencies will also be balloted for strike action. They had their roles reviewed which determined that their pay scale was not appropriate to that of a modern skilled craftworker. In a jobs market where it is extremely difficult to both hire and retain chefs, an independent review identified that they have no pay relationship with any of the craft groups within the public service and should be permitted to migrate to the existing craft pay scales.

This migration, while of little cost to the health service is hugely significant for our members and in particular for future pay movement. The process we entered into was agreed and our members accepted the findings in mid-2018.

Until recent months, we also understood that the Department of Health and HSE had agreed to co-operate with and implement the report. They haven’t and our members feel badly let down and want to take action.”

25/03/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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Labour Court hears calls for a fair new nursing and midwifery contrac

SIPTU Nursing representatives have today (Monday 25th March) presented their case in the Labour Court for a fair contract for all nurses and midwives.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “SIPTU representatives put forward a robust defence of our members’ rights and highlighted what we see as an act of opportunism by Government to erode hard fought for terms and conditions. It is clear to our members that the Government is attempting to force through the same major changes to work practices that unions fought against during the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA) negotiations. SIPTU representatives campaigned against those changes then and we stand against them now.”

He added: “This concerted effort by Government to remove our members’ right to a decent and fair contract of employment will never benefit the public. It simply only serves to undermine our member’s ability to deliver the best care possible to their patients. We also made the case to the Labour Court that, if SIPTU members decide not to sign the new contract, they would be entitled to remain on their existing contract with all the protections, pay restoration and pay progression for the PSSA provides.”

SIPTU Nursing Sector Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “SIPTU representatives confirmed to the Labour Court that proposals seeking to have nurses or midwives move to another location up to 45kms away on a daily or week by week basis have no place in the health service. Equally, proposals for nurses and midwives to work shifts of as little as four hours in duration stand no chance of acceptance by our members.”

25/03/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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Labour Court nursing talks to resume today

SIPTU Nursing representatives will resume talks today (Monday 25th March) at noon in the Labour Court as part of efforts to negotiate a new contract for nurses and midwives.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “We intend to put a robust defence of our members’ against the Government’s act of opportunism. Their concerted determination to remove our members’ right to a decent and fair contract of employment only serves to undermine our member’s ability to deliver the best care possible to their patients.”

An update will be available on the SIPTU Health App later today.

24/03/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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Future proof the planet – now

AS HUMAN beings, we are designed to be able to process vast amounts of complex information to inform the countless decisions we make every day.

Some are split-second decisions of little import – such as where to sit as we enter a room. Others are potentially life-changing and warrant a period of reflection – such as what to do after secondary school, or who to marry.

But, we tend not to sweat about the small stuff. We take mental shortcuts so that we don’t waste precious brain power calculating the most advantageous seat to sit in. Often, we’ll simply sit in the same seat as last time!

Climate change is another catastrophe in the making. Other than those few members of the Flat Earth Society, we all know that man-made global warming is well under way. The science is un-contestable. The proof is in the increased frequency of extreme weather events, the melting polar ice caps, and the slow but inexorable rise in sea levels.

Even for those of us who have faith in the science and who recognise the urgent need for public policies to combat climate change, there is still a natural tendency to underestimate the scale of the problem. It is hard to conceptualise the difference in the impact of a mere 1.5 degrees versus 2 degrees centigrade increase in temperatures, or what a ton of carbon emissions look like. Our mental shortcuts compound the problem.

Others have an intrinsic short- term interest in either denying the science or opposing the necessary policies. Big oil firms know that decarbonising the economy will hurt their bottom line. Meanwhile, the agriculture sector – source of a third of Irish carbon emissions, and constituting the country’s best-organised lobby group – fear that further moves towards sustainable farming will make it impossible for them to make ends meet.

Cue the hysterical backlash at the thought of our Taoiseach reducing the amount of red meat he consumes for health and environ- mental reasons!

Business as usual means the world is likely to see a rise in temperatures of 2 degrees centigrade from pre-industrial levels. In October last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) set out in a report the vast difference that could be made if the in- crease in temperatures was limited to 1.5 degrees, but it would require a massive shift in behaviour.

For slackers like Ireland, the bar is even higher. But, we owe it to the planet and to our own future generations to take action now and play our full part. We need to tar- get zero net carbon emissions by 2050 and put in place a step-by- step plan to achieve it.

If we don’t take action, it is future generations that will bear the heaviest burden. But our not-too- distant future selves will also have a cross to bear. Since Ireland has made so little progress towards reducing its carbon emissions, from next year we will be faced with annual fines of a half billion euro or more. Even if the economy keeps growing strongly, this will mean hard choices – higher taxes or lower spending.

But, the messaging around cli- mate change action is all wrong. It’s all pain and no gain. We talk about higher carbon taxes, eating less meat, flying less or leaving the car at home. These are all sacrifices, and those of us struggling to put dinner on the table can hardly be expected to willingly shoulder a greater burden.

This is why we need to concentrate on the upside as much as the downside, on the benefits the zero-carbon transition can bring as much as the sacrifices it will entail.

New ‘green collar’ jobs in retrofitting every building in the country; new opportunities for rural Ireland in sustainable farming and eco-tourism; facilitating off-grid and mini-grid power generation so that small-scale producers can sell back to the grid electricity that they don’t use themselves.

In the same way as we need to be ambitious in terms of pitching the carbon tax at the level necessary to change behaviour and meet our emissions targets, we need to be more ambitious about what we do with the proceeds.

Sending every household in the country a cheque in the post – the so-called ‘fee and dividend’ model – might be the most simple approach in the short-run. But, such is the scale of the challenge, we have to go even further.

If we are to quadruple the carbon tax to €80 per ton by 2030 – let alone increasing it to a minimum of  €300 per ton, as recommended by the ESRI – then there will be a significant pot of money, even taking into account the impact of changed behaviour. This will be enough to ensure a ‘just transition’; enough to revolutionise our tax and welfare system.

Using proceeds of the carbon tax as a down-payment for a universal basic income by 2030 could be a powerful commitment to the sort of ‘just transition’ that nearly everyone could get behind.

We need as much ambition in rethinking the social contract as in decarbonising the economy. Reinvigorated by their mid-term election last November – with newly-elected socialist firebrand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez helping lead the charge – activists on the left of the Democratic Party in the US have rallied behind the idea of a Green New Deal, with precisely these twin social and environ- mental objectives in mind.

That enacting such sweeping legislation while a Republican occupies the White House, that achieving its ambitious targets is probably impossible, and that much of the policy detail still needs to be defined is beside the point.

It is a recognition of the scale of the problem, a rallying point ahead of the 2020 US elections, and a framework for a progressive legislative programme thereafter. In short, it’s a good start.

20/03/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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SIPTU says University Hospital Limerick ward closure is in breach of PSSA

SIPTU representatives have informed management that its proposal to close a ward in University Hospital Limerick, without consultation with unions, will constitute a breach of the terms of the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA).

SIPTU Organiser, Pat Condon, said: “Union representatives met with senior management on 9th January. At this meeting, management said it was proposing to close Ward 1A in order to facilitate the opening of a fracture unit in its place.

“SIPTU representatives stated that Ward 1A was part of a 2016 agreement for the opening of a new emergency department for the hospital. We pointed out that it was senseless at this point to close a sixteen-bed unit when the hospital was effectively operating beyond capacity with trolleys on wards every night. We highlighted that removing these sixteen beds would adversely affect patients and expose our members to dangerous risks.

“Agreement was reached that these beds would remain open and that if there was to be any change, management would reengage with union representatives. Our members are upset to learn that management proposes to go ahead with the closure of this ward at the end of March. This is despite there being no further discussions on this issue between management and union representatives.”

He added: “Management has also refused to meet with unions to discuss the wider issue of staffing levels in the hospital as part of a Workplace Relations Commission process. Instead, management has decided to introduce changes to our members’ conditions of employment without any discussions or agreement.

“SIPTU representatives wrote to management on 10th January informing it that its continued refusal to engage with union representatives on any matters incurring changes to our members’ employment conditions would amount to a breach of the PSSA. Since then we have made several other requests for discussions with management to no avail.

“Unless there is an immediate engagement by management with our union, the next step will be to cite this breach of the PSSA to the National Implementation Body, which is responsible for overseeing adherence to the agreement.”

19/03/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole
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Labour Court hearing adjourns

SIPTU Nursing representatives attended a Labour Court hearing on Tuesday 19th, March on the proposed enhanced nursing and midwifery contract.

SIPTU requested that the hearing adjourn until Monday (25th March) to allow for consideration and engagement on a number of technical matters that require clarification prior to the hearing proceeding

SIPTU thanks the members of the Labour Court for their patience and forbearance in this regard.  Updates will be available on the SIPTU Health Division App and website.