17/05/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Stay safe. Stay focused. #FrontlineHeroes

Last week, we pushed for a resolution to our childcare demands, demanded better testing for health workers, pay equality for all. The struggle continues.

“We’re with you right until the end.” – SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Paul Bell

12/05/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Happy international Nurses Day

On the occasion of the International Day of the Nurse and the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, SIPTU Health Division joins with the World Health Organization (WHO) and hundreds of partners worldwide to highlight the importance of nurses in the healthcare continuum and thank nurses for what they do.

Historically, as well as today, nurses are at the forefront of fighting epidemics and pandemics –  providing high quality and respectful treatment and care. They are often the first and sometimes the only health professional that people see and the quality of their initial assessment, care and treatment is vital.

Nurses account for more than half of all the world’s health workers, yet there is an urgent shortage of nurses and other health care workers worldwide.

The Covid-19 pandemic is a stark reminder of the vital role nurses play. Without nurses and other health workers, we will not win the battle against outbreaks, we will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals or universal health coverage.

As we mark this, day, the WHO is urging countries to ensure:

  • the occupational safety and health of nurses and all health workers, including notably, unhindered access to personal protective equipment so they can safely provide care and reduce infections in health care settings.
  • nurses and all health care workers have access to mental health support, timely pay, sick leave and insurance; as well as access to the most up-to-date knowledge and guidance required to respond to all health needs, including outbreaks.
  • nurses are given the financial support and other resources required to help respond to and control COVID-19 and future outbreaks

By developing their nursing workforces, countries can achieve the triple impact of improving health, promoting gender equality and supporting economic growth. Strengthening nursing will have the additional benefits of promoting gender equity (SDG5), contributing to economic development (SDG8) and supporting other Sustainable Development Goals.

10/05/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

SIPTU demands Government intervention to protect agency workers

SIPTU Health representatives have today (Sunday 10th, May) demanded immediate government intervention to ensure that all health workers who are battling to stop the spread of Covid-19 are treated equally.

SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser Paul Bell said: “In recent days, SIPTU Health representatives have demanded clarification from the Health Service Executive (HSE) on two significant points concerning the terms and conditions under which health workers who signed up to Be on Call for Ireland are currently working.”

“The first significant difference is that any directly employed worker advised by occupational health to self-isolate will receive special COVID-19 leave pay. It is our understanding that this policy does not include workers deployed from the Be on Call for Ireland work scheme.”

“SIPTU representatives were also told that there is no life cover or compensation for death in service resulting from COVID-19 as these workers have no contract with the public service. Their contract is with a private agency. This could result in the worker or their family having no support if they contract the disease and are required to self-isolate or even worse if they die in service.

“The reality is that health workers account for 29.5% of the reported COVID-19 cases so far. This is equal to over 6,600 frontline essential workers and with a confirmed fatality rate of 5 it is reasonable to assume that some of these agency workers may contract the disease and also lose their lives.”

He added: “These workers who have answered Ireland’s call are exposed to the exact same risks as workers with direct contracts of employment and this revelation needs an immediate intervention by the Government. We cannot have a situation where the State, on our behalf, procures committed health workers and should they contract COVID-19 working on the frontline of our hospitals, nursing homes or health facilities no support is provided for their families and loved ones.

“We know agencies charge a significant fee for providing a temporary worker to the employer. Given that these health workers signed up on a HSE website, one must question the role of the agency, the money being charged for this service and the rationale for the HSE avoiding its responsibility to them.”

10/05/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Sunday Video: On the frontline of the frontline

“Health Care Support Assistants make a huge difference to so many people’s lives in our community. We can’t stay at home. We are on the frontline of the #COVID19 frontline. We have to keep going.” – Geraldine McNamara

05/05/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

SIPTU says government must immediately revise childcare policy for essential workers

SIPTU Health representatives have today (Tuesday, 5th May) called on the Government to immediately revise the date for the reopening of childcare facilities and to offer a special “annual leave credit” for all health and essential workers.

SIPTU Divisional Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “Unfortunately, the proposed date of Monday 29th June is not good enough for thousands of health and essential workers. Some progress was made last week to secure paid leave entitlements for health service workers experiencing severe difficulties with childcare obligations. However, the Government remains lethargic in its response to an issue which is seriously impacting on a huge number workers involved in the health emergency. The reality is that the scheduled date for the reopening of childcare facilities and services places a further eight weeks of intolerable pressure on our frontline workers.

“Many health and essential workers rely on informal childcare arrangements usually with the assistance of parents, close older family members and combined with school or creche facilities. The Government rightly in the defence of older people against the COVID 19 virus requested that these citizens cocoon but failed to address the consequence of this public health policy. The issue of childcare has also been devastating for lone parents trying to attend work on the frontline. While it is a positive development that from Monday, 18th May, childcare workers can care for the children in the home of essential workers on a voluntary basis the issue of how health and essential workers will pay for these services must be clarified.”

He added: “It is also time for the Government to engage with union representatives and the Health Service Executive to compensate workers forced to use up their annual leave provision for childminding obligations. It has allowed this matter to drift from week to week continually promising a solution and many of our members have now exhausted their annual leave allocation to provide childcare. It is not good enough. SIPTU representatives are now calling on the Government to reimburse these essential workers by offering them a special “annual leave credit” which can be used later in the year.”

03/05/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Staying the course. Facing the challenges together. #FrontlineHeroes

This week SIPTU Health representatives secured pay justice and equality for Student Radiographers working on the Covid-19 frontline, reacted to a new childcare policy being published and worked on the development of Section 39 redeployment proposal. Stay in touch by emailing covid19info@siptuhealth.ie and stay safe.

01/05/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

SIPTU secures pay for student radiographers working on Covid-19 frontline

SIPTU representatives have today (Friday, 1st May) confirmed the union has secured an agreement offering student radiographers working on the frontline of the Covid-19 crisis a paid contract of employment.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Kevin Figgis said: “Following an intense campaign and extensive engagement with both the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Department of Health we can confirm that 51 student radiographers currently assisting in the battle to stop the spread of Covid-19 will be offered a 3 month contract of employment similar to the terms agreed for nursing, midwifery and medical science students. From the outset of our campaign, SIPTU representatives argued that the essential work carried out by these students should be treated no less favourably than other student health professional categories. This agreement achieves that parity of esteem and recognises the hard work of these dedicated young health professionals serving our communities.”

He added: “Radiographers are in short supply and there is great demand for them in both public and private health care settings, at home and abroad. It was vital we sent these students a clear message they are needed in the Irish health service and that they will be offered valuable employment pending their graduation and registration as radiographers.”

SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “A huge effort was made to ensure student radiographers were recognised for their effort in the fight against Covid-19. This virus has affected every community on the island of Ireland and health care workers are at the forefront of that fight every day. This positive result could not have been achieved without the support of all our members in radiography. We also like to thank the Minister for Health, Simon Harris for his intervention on the matter and welcome his remarks in Dáil Éireann yesterday.”

29/04/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

SIPTU Workers Memorial Day Ceremony 2020

On Workers’ Memorial Day 2020, we find ourselves in the midst of a pandemic that’s having profound effects on us all. The COVID-19 outbreak has shown us how vulnerable we are to an epidemic, and how devastating the effects can be: on life, on society, on our economy.

This crisis has demonstrated, as never before, the importance of protecting the safety, health and welfare of all people, whether at home or in the workplace.

It has also shown the importance of investing in good public health care, investing in good conditions for health care workers and other frontline workers, and the need to ensure good sick pay and other provisions to protect the wages and jobs of all.

Earlier today, SIPTU Health Division joined with our sisters and brothers from the private sector and the wider public service membership of our union to commemorate all those who died from Covid-19.

Ar dheis dé go raibh a n-anamacha dílse.

26/04/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Sunday Read: Covid-19: Our ‘1945 moment’?

In the storm of this public health crisis, we’ve seen a significant shift away from a four-decade market-centred economic orthodoxy, and towards some of the principles and tools associated with Europe’s post-war reconstruction.

This contrasts sharply with the 2008-2010 banking crisis, when political, economic and, initially, social consensus swung quickly behind the politics and economics of austerity.

Driven in part by public health imperatives, and accompanied by an inspiring spirit of social solidarity, strong support for a State-led response to the massive economic challenges of the Covid-19 crisis has emerged in Ireland and beyond.

Indeed, Pope Francis himself called for a post-war spirit of solidarity in his Easter message last weekend.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen what can be achieved when the State mobilises financial, organisational and human resources for the common good, when people work together collectively, and when citizens have equal access to essential goods and services.

The next challenge will be to embed these principles into our economic, social and business model on the other side of the emergency.

There are strong reasons to believe that we may be experiencing a ‘1945 moment,’ where the enormity of loss and sacrifice, the scale of economic devastation, and fatigue with austerity, combine to create the conditions for a radical shift in European public policy.

And the sheer scale of the coming economic storm means we need a fundamentally different approach to the one adopted during the banking crisis.

As Irish government formation efforts intensify, any unity of national purpose will, at the very least, require a progressive counterweight to the centre-right if we are to avoid a repeat of the mistakes of the past.

This is also a challenge to the left, as the development and display of untested ‘alternatives’ will be as irrelevant to today’s citizens as they are to tomorrow’s historians.

That means trade unions, civil society organisations and others must stand ready to play their part, together, in the implementation of practical solutions.

Recent events suggest that a genuinely new social and political consensus is possible on the basis of:

  • A high-productivity, high-skills competitive economy supported by public investment in education and infrastructure
  • An economy where all workers can expect an income capable of supporting a decent standard of living
  • Social solidarity, in the form of a strong safety net to support those unable to work
  • A social wage, with essential public services provided on a universal basis
  • Flatter wealth distribution
  • Supported by adequate taxation, social dialogue, collective bargaining, and legal rights to equality and civil and political freedoms.

Without the US leadership displayed in 1945, the responsibility for rebooting our economies now rests squarely with the leaders of Europe and its nations.

In this context, the makeshift deal testily hammered out by EU finance ministers last week is utterly inadequate to the scale of the challenges before us.

The distinction they made – between debt directly associated with the virus and debt that isn’t – may look like fancy footwork today, but it will seem laughable when the full cost of economic recovery emerges.

Once the health crisis abates enough for us to properly assess that damage, the priority will be to kick-start our economies and maintain living standards, not to classify and pay back debt.

This will require effort and imagination from politicians, the financial sector, public services, businesses, civil society, and representative organisations.

Just as in the post-war period, the strongest available tool of recovery will be investment in infrastructure. Critical public services like health, education and childcare will need to recoup. Jobs permanently lost in the Covid crisis will have to be replaced. Incomes must be supported in the meantime.

That’s before we step up our response to the climate crisis, tackle the pre-coronavirus shortcomings in housing and other public services, or address the reasonable expectation that recently-introduced universality in public provision will be maintained and expanded.

The crisis has also exposed the vulnerability of people in low-paid and insecure employment, while its impact on the organisation of work – in particular the rapid shift from office-based to remote working – holds huge potential for productivity, public services, regional balance, quality of life, and the environment.

In recent weeks, we have witnessed some extraordinary things, not least the loss and fear that the coronavirus has inflicted.

We’ve also seen the inspiring bravery of our health and other essential workers, the many thousands of volunteers who have put themselves forward, and a community spirit that has both helped limit the spread of the virus and found new ways to socialise and support others.

If we build on that, our country and our continent can become more secure, more equal, more united, and better prepared for future shocks.

If we fail, we risk a descent into long-term economic hardship and political chaos, here and across the European Union.

24/04/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

SIPTU to participate in global campaign calling on Governments to protect home care workers

SIPTU Health representatives will today (Friday, 24th April) join trade unionists from dozens of countries around the world including New Zealand, Australia, India and the United States in a global campaign calling on governments to protect all home care workers on the frontlines of the Covid-19 crisis.

SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser Paul Bell said: “SIPTU is supporting this global campaign to protect all home care workers. The Government’s belated change of policy on the issue of Health Care Support Assistants wearing facemasks has caused serious confusion among our members. There is also a lack of confidence in the Health Service Executive’s (HSE) ability to supply Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to all our members working on the frontline in the community. We have sought clarification from the HSE as in one Community Healthcare Organisation (CHO) area alone 75,000 face masks would be required per week.”

He added: “Over the past weeks we have become aware of Health Care Support Assistants having to purchase their own PPE, including  face masks from local pharmacies in order to maintain their safety and the safety of their clients. We are now calling on the HSE to reimburse our members for any costs incurred. Many of our members could not afford to purchase equipment and had to make do with reusing protective items. This campaign will help to shine a global light on these workers and on the issues they face in keeping our older people safe in their homes and away from residential settings.”