SIPTU calls on minister to expand radiation therapist places or face major crisis

The Government must urgently expand the number of third-level places in radiation therapy or face a major crisis, SIPTU warned the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, this week.

The union, along with Higher Education representatives, met with the Minister to discuss major staffing deficits in radiation therapists across country which has had a knock-on effect on patient waiting times and left vital equipment idle.

John McCamley, SIPTU Sector Organiser, said: “Radiation therapists perform a crucial job. Almost half of people with a cancer diagnosis will require radiation therapy as part of their treatment plan. This treatment is delivered by radiation therapists as part of a multi-disciplinary team and they are the only profession with the legal authority to deliver radiation therapy. These services are mainly delivered by the HSE in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

“SIPTU has successfully argued for the setting up of the radiation therapist review which will hopefully recommend measures to improve the retention of existing staff. However, there continues to be a shortage of new radiation therapist graduates and, if that continues, we are facing a major crisis.

“This week, we impressed on the Minister the need to expand undergraduate and postgraduate places to increase recruitment of radiation therapists and to offer supports for students during clinical placements. The meeting was positive and constructive. We welcome any assistance the Minister and his department can provide on this matter.”

SIPTU seeks “urgent” meeting with HSE over recruitment freeze

SIPTU Health Division has called for an urgent meeting with the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Department of Health following the decision to implement a recruitment freeze on many grades represented by the union within the health service.

The freeze was revealed in a HSE memo, released today, which confirmed that grades such as Health Care Assistants, Healthcare Support Assistants (or Home Helps), porters, catering assistants, chefs, security personnel and others will all be affected by the decision.

The union said that such a freeze would also affect agency staff, who have traditionally been used to fill vacant posts, maternity leave or long-term sick leave within the healthcare workforce.

Kevin Figgis, SIPTU Divisional Organiser, said: “The decision to implement a recruitment freeze on many of the grades represented by our union has come as a great shock to our members. Many of the grades affected are patient-facing and there will be an inevitable knock-on effect on services.

“What is most alarming about this decision is that we are fast approaching the difficult winter period. Services already struggle to contain the pressures which invariably arise. Our members will now face an impossible situation if a recruitment freeze prohibits the refilling of a vacant patient-facing post within the acute setting or community healthcare.”

Damian Ginley, SIPTU Sector Organiser, said: “Our members provide direct care to patients in hospital or through the community in services such as Healthcare Support Assistants. Their patients and service users are some of the most vulnerable people in society and also some of the most in need of support.

“The HSE has recently stated its wish to extend service provision across the weekend. The decision today will stop any of those plans in their tracks as existing staff are under enough pressure as it is.”

SIPTU radiographers disappointed at HSE response to Galway hospitals’ staffing crisis

SIPTU radiographers at University Hospital Galway and Merlin Park University Hospital have expressed their disappointment at the response from management at a meeting today (12th October) to discuss staffing levels.

Radiographers earlier this week voted overwhelmingly for industrial action up to and including strike action over short staffing and excessive workloads. The vote followed months of frustration over recruitment and retention issues at the two hospitals which have left SIPTU members facing a significant extra workload amid a 20 per cent staffing deficit.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, John McCamley, said: “This dispute centres around staffing, increased workload, non-payment of wage arrears, out of hours arrangements and non-adherence to national agreements. There is a growing sense that HSE management is not willing to engage meaningfully to resolve this dispute and that the window to find a resolution is closing fast.

“SIPTU members are disappointed that no concrete proposals have come from management to resolve the dispute and are frustrated regarding the additional workload placed on radiographers as a result of inadequate staffing.

“SIPTU representatives are seeking commitments from management that it will address wage arrears as a matter of urgency and deal with patient safety issues in the provision of proper out of hours arrangements. ”

SIPTU radiographers in Galway vote for industrial action

Radiographers in University Hospital Galway and Merlin Park University Hospital have voted overwhelmingly for industrial action up to and including strike action in a dispute over safe staffing levels. The result follows months of frustration over recruitment and retention issues at the two hospital sites which have left SIPTU members facing a significant extra workload amid a 20 percent staffing deficit.

Proposals put forward by SIPTU representatives to address these issues have been rejected by management in recent weeks. Management’s reluctance to consider additional out-of-hours services in particular is at odds with the stated positions of the Minister of Health and HSE CEO. University Hospital Galway is one of the few hospitals and acute stroke centres in Ireland that does not provide an on-site radiographer at out-of-hours times for CT scans.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, John McCamley, said: “There is a growing demand for qualified radiographers across Ireland. As a result, fundamental changes must be made to attract radiographers to Galway. If these are not forthcoming, there will be a full-blown crisis in both hospitals.

“SIPTU representatives are concerned that staffing deficits for radiographers in Galway could cause significant safety issues. We are calling for immediate action to be taken by management to address recruitment and retention.”

Health workers in the community and voluntary sector to commence indefinite strike action

The ICTU group of unions representing health and community workers, employed in community and voluntary sector agencies funded by the HSE and other state agencies, have announced today (Monday) that indefinite strike action, in several selected employments nationwide, is to commence from Tuesday 17th October next.

The union group, led by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), said the strike action will involve thousands of health and community workers in a variety of grades and in multiple locations, bringing services to a halt.

The decision to strike follows ballots carried out by Fórsa, the INMO and SIPTU. All three unions said ballot returns showed a high level of participation in the ballot, and overwhelming support for industrial action, up to and including strikes.

Workers in the following employments will take indefinite strike action from Tuesday 17th October:
Ardeen Cheshire Ireland
Ability West
Cheshire Ireland
Cheshire Dublin
Cheshire Home Newcastle West
Co-action West Cork
Cobh Hospital
Daughters Of Charity Child and Family Service
DePaul Ireland
Don Bosco Care
Enable Ireland (nationwide, including Cork, Tralee, East Coast and Midwest regions)
Family Resource Centres
Irish Wheelchair Association
Kerry Parents and Friends Association
St. Catherines Association Ltd
St. Josephs Foundation
St. Lukes Nursing Home
Trinity Community Care
Western Care Association

The ballot for industrial action took place following the breakdown of WRC talks in July and follows years of pay disparity between these workers and their counterparts employed directly by the state.

While these agencies are largely state-funded, workers employed in a range of health professional, clinical, clerical and administrative grades, are on lesser terms and conditions than their HSE counterparts. The pay differential is in excess of 10%.

ICTU general secretary Owen Reidy said the strike action is an inevitable consequence of the failure of the Government to address a serious and growing problem with how the agencies are funded, and a recruitment and retention crisis in vital services: “Workers in the sector now have chosen to take action because the State, as the chief funding body for these services, has failed to grasp the seriousness of the staffing crisis in this sector,” he said.

SIPTU Health division official Kevin Figgis said: “The decision to strike clearly demonstrates the level of frustration our members feel at the dysfunctional way in which parts of the community healthcare system is funded.

“Our members involved in this dispute provide essential health services on behalf of the State. Should voluntary providers continue to have recruitment and retention issues, and are no longer able to provide these services, there will be an obligation on the HSE to step in and provide them directly.

“These services will need to be appropriately funded. Pay parity with the public service is necessary to ensure the provision of vital public services to vulnerable people in our communities. It’s an acknowledged fact that the current funding model is unsustainable and will need to be resolved to secure the future of these services,” he said.

Fórsa Health and Welfare official Ashley Connolly said: “This is the action of last resort, and it has been a difficult decision for these workers, but they’ve been left with no more options.

“The Government has been dragging its feet on the issue for years, while making conciliatory noises to health workers who urgently need pay improvements. Their colleagues are walking out the door for better terms elsewhere, and waiting lists for the services these agencies offer continue to grow as a result.

“There’s a yawning pay gap of more than 10%. Services cannot be sustained as long as that continues,“ she said.

INMO official Albert Murphy said: “Nurses in the community and voluntary sector provide essential services to some of the most vulnerable people in society. They have not been afforded the same level of pay increases as their colleagues in the HSE, which is exacerbating a recruitment and retention crisis in the sector.

“Nurses in the sector are now facing into another winter with rising household costs, yet their salaries remain stagnant.

“The Government cannot continue to bury its head in the sand over the very real issues at the heart of this dispute. It’s hard for our members to take that while the exchequer has enjoyed record returns, and the state continues to deny vital pay improvements to thousands of workers in this vital health sector.”

SIPTU Public Administration and Community division official Karan O’Loughlin added: “Our members have opted to take action as the wage cuts, unilaterally imposed more than a decade ago, have been reversed all over the economy while our members have been left behind. It’s unacceptable.

“Government inaction and delay has only served to put these vital community services at risk and leave our members to feel as though they have no option to withdraw their labour,” she said.

Now is the time for Healthcare Assistants to Organise – SIPTU

SIPTU, the Union with national negotiation rights for Healthcare Assistants (HCAs) in Ireland, will today (September 21st), be reaching out to HCAs in Galway University Hospital and encouraging them to join the Union to ensure their role is recognised and respected.

The Union will be on the site of Galway University Hospital today, speaking to HCAs about the value of joining SIPTU and sharing information on their rights and entitlements in the workplace.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Pat Flannery, said “the role of the HCA is continuing to evolve at a rapid pace. What was once considered an auxiliary role, is now fundamental to the delivery of direct patient care. In the last number of years, we have seen that the HSE Support Grade Job Evaluation Scheme, a scheme in which the roles of support workers were independently evaluated, deemed that the role warranted being re-banded to a higher rate of pay. It was in recognition of the fact that the role has evolved in recent years.”

“Our Union successfully negotiated for a full review of the role of the HCA, which was published in 2018. Among the recommendations of that report was that resources be made available for ongoing training and development of HCAs, to explore the possibility of having HCAs as professionally registered grade; and explore career pathways for HCAs. The Union is working hard to make sure the recommendations of this report are fully implemented.”

“It is important to state that, as a Union, SIPTU does not just represent HCAs in the public service. SIPTU also represents HCAs in the Section 39 and private service. We encourage carers in every employment and setting to join SIPTU” Mr Flannery concluded.

Member Update – Section 39 Process

Dear Member,

We write further to our last update of 31st July in which we advised of the breakdown in talks between the relevant government departments and unions on pay justice for the Section 39 sector.

On that occasion, we detailed how unions would be consulting with members internally regarding the next steps for our campaign.

These consultations have now taken place and the unions will proceed to ballot members in several Section 39 agencies for industrial and strike action.

The organisations that will be balloted by SIPTU Health are as follows:

Cheshire Ireland
Ability West Galway
Western Care Association Mayo
St Joseph’s Foundation Cork
St. Luke’s Home Cork
Cobh Centre (Community Hospital)
Co. Action West Cork
Kerry Parents and Friends
Trinity Community Care CLG, Dublin

Ballots will also be conducted in several other organisations by our colleague unions.

We intend to commence the ballot on the week beginning on the 4th of September. Members in these organisations will be informed locally of balloting arrangements in advance.

It is important for members in all Section 39 agencies to support those taking action in pursuit of pay justice in the sector. This campaign may need to be escalated in the coming weeks and months.

It is more important than ever for members in Section 39 agencies to talk to their colleagues about the value of SIPTU membership and to encourage them to join in the pursuit of pay justice.

United, we will win.

Talks on pay terms for health workers in the community and voluntary sector break down at WRC

The group of unions representing workers employed in community and voluntary sector agencies funded by the HSE, walked out of talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) earlier this week in response to what the unions described as a “derisory” pay offer from the employer.

The union group, led by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), said it would now proceed to ballot workers for industrial action. The ballots will take place in several employments in the sector selected by the unions, and likely to involve hundreds of health and care staff. While these agencies are funded by the state, their employees in a range of health professional, clinical, clerical and administrative grades, are on lesser terms and conditions than their HSE counterparts.

SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “The breakdown of these talks is a complete body blow to thousands of healthcare and community workers who had a legitimate expectation that they would be getting a decent pay rise coupled with the restoration of the pay link between Section 39 workers and workers in the public service. Is it unacceptable that workers providing essential public services are not being paid public service rates of pay. The government cannot continue to turn a blind eye and must grasp the nettle. There is over a 10% pay gap that is feeding a huge recruitment and retention crisis in Section 39 services. The reality is that if this continues, services will be shut down, and the HSE will then have to step in to provide these services. It’s completely counter-intuitive. The strategy of being penny wise and pound foolish with the provision of these services is completely intolerable, and our members won’t stand for it any longer. We will now engage with our members with a view to resuming widespread industrial and strike action across these services.”

SIPTU Public Administration and Community Divisional Organiser, Karan O’Loughlin, said: “ Our members in the community sector have been extremely patient while waiting for the government to put forward a reasonable and acceptable proposal. Despite their patience, this hasn’t happened. Our members are not prepared to wait any longer. For every member of staff freshly recruited, another experienced staff member is walking out the door. The situation is grim, and the offer this morning suggests there’s little, if any, political will to tackle it. Real pay improvements for staff are the only means of stemming the high rate of staff exits each year and to fulfil recruitment targets for vital health services, including disability and homeless services.”

Fórsa national secretary Ashley Connolly said the offer, which had been sanctioned by Officials from the Department of Health, Department of Children Equality, Disability, Youth and Integration and HSE, fell far short of expectations: “This morning’s pay offer amounted to 5% in a single year, falling far short of the current public service agreement.

“These are workers providing professional health and social care working shoulder-to-shoulder with their public service counterparts. The employer’s offer suggests they were never that serious about resolving the growing pay disparities and the growing problem of employee retention. Any prospect of an agreement was essentially extinguished this morning,” she said.
Maeve Brehony of the INMO added: “The Government has been dragging its feet on this issue for years, while making conciliatory noises to health workers who urgently need pay improvements.

“They haven’t seen a significant pay rise for years, their colleagues are walking out the door for better terms elsewhere, and there appears to be no sense of urgency at Government level, despite the growing waiting lists for the services these agencies offer,” she said.
Until 2008, workers in these agencies received pay increases under national wage agreements. At the onset of the financial crisis they were subject to FEMPI pay cuts in line with the same cuts applied to public sector pay. Limited pay restoration measures were eventually won by unions in 2019 but pay in these agencies remains significantly behind, and no formal mechanism for collective pay bargaining exists for workers in the sector.

Union research has revealed that recruitment and retention of professional health staff in these employments has become a major challenge. Employers are consequently burdened with higher recruitment costs and growing waiting lists for services.

SIPTU seeks immediate engagement with HSE regarding recommendations in the CAMHS report

SIPTU representatives have today (Friday 28th July) sought immediate engagement with the Health Service Executive (HSE) over the implementation of the Independent Review of the Provision of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in the State by the Inspector of Mental Health Services.

SIPTU, as one of the largest union representing staff working in mental health services, including psychiatric nurses, healthcare assistants, and support grades, welcomes the report’s recommendations. However, representatives expressed disappointment over the lack of formal engagement with members throughout the stakeholder process.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, John McCamley, said: “Our members were not surprised by the report’s contents given they face each day the daunting task of providing care to vulnerable clients in a system plagued by deficits. We call on the HSE to begin a process of engagement with the relevant stakeholders to resolve these issues as a matter of urgency.”

“The dedication of all CAMHS staff must be recognised. They relentlessly strive to deliver vital services under challenging circumstances, and they would be the first to advocate for a world-class mental health service for young people in this country. They are an invaluable asset to the State, and we must bear this in mind as we confront the outcomes of this report.”

He added: “The report noted a number of ways staffing issues within CAMHS are having a detrimental effect on the delivery of the service. Crucially, the report highlighted the absence of a benchmark for safe staffing levels within child and adolescent mental health services. This must be addressed. The report also acknowledged the prevalence of low staff morale and burnout among healthcare workers in CAMHS; and raised serious concerns that some staff members are compelled to work beyond their contracted hours without additional compensation, all in a bid to provide essential therapeutic interventions, and stop some services from collapsing. This is not right, this is not fair, and ultimately this is not sustainable for staff or their clients.”

SIPTU says further solutions needed to address staffing issues in home care sector

SIPTU representatives have called on the Government to engage in meaningful dialogue to seek comprehensive solutions to the recruitment and retention crisis in the home support sector.

In response to the announcement by health minister, Stephen Donnelly, that State-funded home support providers will receive an increase in funding in order to pay workers the living wage, SIPTU Sector Organiser, Pat Flannery, said that it will not fully address issues in the sector.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Pat Flannery said; “While we acknowledge the Government’s efforts to address some of the challenges in the sector, the announced pay increase falls short of what is needed to effectively tackle the current recruitment and retention issues faced by home support services.

“The current Living Wage in Ireland is €13.10 per hour. In the public service, a healthcare support assistant can start on more than €16 per hour. This will rise to more than €20 per hour for those who reach the top of their salary scale. In addition, public service healthcare support assistants enjoy union-negotiated benefits such as access to a pension scheme, paid sick leave, sufficient contracted hours and premium payments for unsociable hours. These are not often a feature in contracts of employment in the voluntary and private sectors.

“It is crucial to understand that the proposals do not go far enough in providing a sustainable solution for the voluntary home support sector. Progress in this area is far too slow to date and the Government needs to stop taking a piecemeal approach to this issue.
“Our members want the Government to engage in meaningful dialogue with their trade union to explore more comprehensive solutions to the recruitment and retention crisis in the home support sector.”