08/03/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Coronavirus: Watch how germs spread

Coronavirus has been seen in more than 30 countries. The virus can spread from person to person and officials recommend simple steps to avoid becoming infected.

Dr Adele McCormick from the University of Westminster demonstrated how germs spread and what the best methods are to avoid catching a virus.

Source – BBC World Service

08/03/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

SIPTU welcomes lifting of HSE recruitment embargo for all health workers.

SIPTU Health representatives have today (Sunday, 8th March) welcomed written confirmation from the Health Service Executive (HSE) that all barriers to the recruitment of health staff has now been fully lifted in an effort to support critical clinical services in dealing with COVID-19.

SIPTU Divisional Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “The fact that there will be no obstruction to the recruitment of essential health workers can only assist in the fight against COVID-19. Our members are on the front line of our health service and are committed to doing all they can to protect their patients, their families and the general public against the spread of this virus. It is essential our members have the appropriate safe staffing levels, resources, including personal protection equipment and training, to ensure they are best placed to fight the threat of coronavirus against our communities.”

The HSE also confirmed it will fast-track all other avenues of appointment in order to bolster staffing numbers as quickly as possible, including reaching out to health workers who left the service for reasons of retirement, career break and secondments.

He added: “The fight against COVID-19 will require a multi-layered approach to include screening in the community. Our members within the National Ambulance Service will be central to this effort by undertaking the screening of patients or members of the public deemed to be at risk of the virus. If they are to be successful, it is vital all resources required are available to them in the weeks and months ahead.”

SIPTU Health Division is one of the largest unions within the health service with over 42,000 members. The union represents a wide variety of grades such as Paramedics, Radiographers, Health Care Assistants, Nurses & Midwives and General Support Staff including Catering Assistants, Porters, Household and Security personnel.

08/03/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

DPER issue COVID-19 guidelines.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) has issued an FAQ document to provide Human Resources (HR) guidance for a SIPTU Health Division members in relation to leave associated with COVID-19.

The general principles to apply to the treatment of COVID-19 infections for SIPTU Health members include:

  1. Obligations under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 to ensure the safety and welfare of employees at work.
  2. Flexibility for alternative working arrangements (for example home working), is to be encouraged where possible. This may enable employees, who are not ill, to continue working.
  3. Circular 2/1976, which covers special leave with pay2 should apply to periods of medically/HSE recommended self-isolation3 where flexible working arrangements are not possible, and also to medical diagnoses of COVID-19 infection. Sectors will need to amend these FAQs to refer to their own special leave circulars or arrangements as necessary.
  4. The general principles applying to the management of sick leave, for example the requirement of employees to contact managers, and for ongoing contact with employees who are on special leave for this purpose, will apply.
  5. Any special leave with pay granted for the purpose of self-isolation or any diagnosis of COVID-19 will not be counted as part of the employee’s sick leave record. The application of special leave with pay will apply for the number of days advised by the HSE/doctor. Appropriate medical/HSE confirmation of the need to self-isolate and a diagnosis of COVID-19 will be required.
  6. When granting special leave with pay, as per clause 31.2 of Circular 2/1976, “the officer will be expected to comply at once with any directions which may be given by his Department and to take all practicable steps to resume duty as soon as possible. Otherwise, unless adequate reason is shown for non-compliance, the question of withholding pay will arise”.
  7. In the event of non-compliance with the provisions of special leave with pay (including the requirement to provide bona fide4 confirmation of self- isolation/diagnosis of COVID-19) existing procedures, including disciplinary measures may be invoked.
  8. Subject to expert public health advice in light of developing circumstances on COVID-19, the general principles or FAQ material may be subject to updating or other amendment. Employers retain the right to withdraw or amend provisions in light of developing circumstances.
  9. These arrangements apply in the case of COVID-19 as a notifiable infectious disease. They do not apply, for example, to ordinary flu-like illnesses.
  10. Civil and Public Service employers are encouraged to review their business continuity plans in light of the emerging situation.
  11. Civil and Public Service employers need to ensure that special category health data is processed legally within data protection legislation.

Read the full document HERE.

04/03/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

COVID-19 Notice to SIPTU members in the Public Service

SIPTU Public Service representatives are engaging with the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Department of Health to prepare and plan for dealing with Covid-19 (coronavirus) on the island of Ireland.

Our focus is to ensure that HSE management and all other Public Service employers in Local Government, Education, the State and Community sectors provide clear and updated guidelines for our members.

We are asking the employers to ensure that escalation plans are flagged well in advance, that training and adequate protective equipment are provided and that support for all public service staff is prioritised.

The advice from public health professionals is that the risk of of being infected by Covid-19 (coronavirus) in Ireland is still low, with three confirmed cases as of 4th March. However, all SIPTU members must play their part in containing the disease by accessing and following reliable up-to-date information, washing hands properly and frequently and self-isolating, if required.

In cases of enforced absences i.e., where there is direction and/or medical advice for an employee to self-isolate, normal pay should continue to be paid. This should also apply where an employee self-isolates in accordance with the up-to-date guidance of the HSE.

As always, the protection of the public and our communities is the key focus for all our members in the public service.

We encourage all members to familiarise themselves with the guidance provided in their workplaces and to follow the advice communicated through the media by the HSE and relevant agencies or through the links below.

Links to relevant websites and information:

COVID-19 updates – how the health service is responding to the global spread of coronavirus
Department of Foreign Affairs – updated travel information and advice
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre – information for health professionals


European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

Department of Foreign Affairs

WHO Guidelines

04/03/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

SIPTU Ambulance Professionals Update: Coronavirus

SIPTU representatives have met with National Ambulance Service (NAS) management to discuss the concerns raised by some SIPTU members in the preparation and planning stages of dealing with any outbreak of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) on the island of Ireland.

Nationally, the National Crisis Management team are giving regular updates and information to the group of unions.

The meeting exclusively focused on the NAS frontline staff and discussed the training, information, support and equipment in place for ambulance professionals.

Below is an update from SIPTU representatives on foot of our engagement this morning.

Should members have any concerns or require further information please raise them in the first instance with your manager and contact the union if needed to raise them with the Senior Leadership Team who will discuss this developing situation with your union.


SIPTU representatives asked NAS management to outline what training is being given to staff to prepare them to deal with cases of coronavirus.

  • Management confirmed that all frontline staff are trained in infection control.
  • In addition to online training and information videos, the National Ambulance Service College is providing training on donning and doffing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • Education officers and instructors are visiting all areas with the kit to train people in their use.
  • The education officers will bring SIPTU members through video links and various algorithms to deal with actual or suspected cases of coronavirus, both for patients or themselves. All information will be available through Moodle.
  • Any gaps which exist in face to face training will be given priority and people who believe there is a training deficit need to communicate their concerns to their line manager in order to be provided with training as a matter of priority.


Management were asked to confirm that the Personal Protective Equipment required to deal with coronavirus is in place, is appropriate for use and is of a sufficiently high standard to protect staff health and safety.

  • Management confirmed that all equipment meets all guidelines and has been sourced for NAS through the HSE National Procurement system.
  • Management confirmed that coronavirus, a category B1 disease, can be responded to with the contents of the prepared kits which have been distributed to areas which include an apron, goggles, masks, hand sanitiser.
  • Each vehicle will have three kits and crews are asked to check the three kits are there at the start of each shift. Should you use any of the kits during a shift, you need restock your kits again before being sent to any other possible coronavirus case. All vehicles (ICVs, RRVs and Emergency Ambulances) will receive these kits.
  • Hundreds of these kits have been distributed in recent days with additional kits being stored centrally to be distributed to areas as stock levels run low.
  • Management say they are confident there are no issues with stock levels or sourcing of additional stock now or going forward. The increase in the cost of the contents of the kit will not affect the stocking of same.
  • In relation to the specific concern some workers have that Tyvek suits are not being used, management confirmed that waterproof aprons are being issued as they are more suitable as they are droplet-resistant, whereas Tyvek suits are not.
  • In line with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control requirements, the NAS are issuing staff with FFP3 respirators which conform to EN149 standard. These are in the kits. Patients are issued with a fluid repellent surgical mask in the kit. The masks for patients and staff differ as the surgical mask is required to protect against the exhaling patient, while the FFP3 is to protect the inhaling staff member.

The union side raised an issue with the goggles as they mist after prolonged use.


The union side queried the circumstances in which a crew or sole responder will be sent to a possible coronavirus case.

  • Management confirmed no worker will be sent to a possible coronavirus case without first being advised that this is a suspected or confirmed case.
  • NEOC will elevate every query re possible coronavirus to Public Health first who will assess if an ambulance needs to be sent.
  • Public Health will also liaise with the receiving hospital.

The union cited a couple of examples from recent days where the hospital did not have this information and NAS management are examining the circumstances with Public Health.


SIPTU representatives stressed that the call volume will increase in relation to possible or confirmed cases of coronavirus and it will have an impact on the workload of staff in the NAS.

  • Management confirmed they will allocate additional resources including overtime, making officers available to work cases and extra Rapid Response Vehicles (RRVs).

Possible Expansion of work of NAS

The Department of Health is currently considering options to test people in their home for coronavirus, to avoid transporting people unnecessarily in an ambulance to an emergency department unless the patient is acutely unwell and requires going to the hospital.

  • For home testing to happen, the Department of Health are considering options, including Paramedics and Advanced Paramedics in the National Ambulance Service testing patients at home.
  • This would involve two swabs, throat and nose, and packaging the sample to send away for testing.
  • Management will seek expressions of interest from people who would work in RRVs to conduct these tests, should the Department of Health opt for the NAS to perform this service.
  • Training would be provided to those interested.
  • Nobody will be compelled to perform this training or to do the swabbing, though they would be required to transport a patient in an ambulance vehicle who had or was suspected of having coronavirus.
  • In the case of home testing, the patient would remain in their home following the test unless based on the environmental assessment of the practitioner they required transportation to hospital.

Developing Plans

This situation is evolving and while management have plans for further escalations should the time come, at this point the training, information and equipment outlined above is deemed acceptable to keep staff safe.

Management commit to appraise SIPTU representatives of all developments and to meet regularly to address members concerns.

27/02/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Agreement on TUPE in St. Patrick’s Mental Health Services follows industrial action

Trade union members and the management of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services on James Street, Dublin 8, have reached a Transfer of Undertakings (TUPE) agreement on the transfer of household and catering services to other providers following a public campaign by union members. SIPTU represented over 100 members in the dispute.

SIPTU Organiser, Aideen Carberry said: “SIPTU members in the household and catering services conducted a public demonstration outside the hospital on 7th February and voted in favour of strike action at the hospital, in opposition to the transfer of the services. Following the action, talks between union representatives and management were conducted under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission.

“Following lengthy negotiations in late February, agreement was reached on the transfer of household services to BidVest Noonan and catering services to Q Cafe. This agreement has been accepted by 78% of the SIPTU members who voted in the ballot of all those affected.

“The agreement has several clauses that are crucial to our members. These include the establishment of a new defined contribution pension scheme with the same contribution rates from the new employers as were paid by St Patrick’s Mental Health Services. Union recognition is protected with time allowed for shop stewards to perform their duties.

“There will also be a transfer payment for all affected staff as well as protection of their existing terms and conditions of employment and location of work.”

She added: “There can be no doubt that this agreement could not have been achieved were it not for the industrial campaign pursued by our members in St Patrick’s Mental Health Services. The agreement is more beneficial to members than would normally be achieved under a TUPE arrangement.”

27/02/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Coronavirus: Advice for SIPTU Health members

To prevent the spread of infection SIPTU members working in a healthcare setting should:

  • regularly wash your hands
  • cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing

Practicing good hand and respiratory hygiene is the best way you can protect against the spread of infection.

Watch a video on how staff working in healthcare can prevent the spread of infection

Suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus

Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) if you are a healthcare professional caring for a patient with suspected or confirmed coronavirus.

This includes a:

  • surgical face mask;
  • face shield or googles
  • clean, non-sterile, disposable long-sleeved gown – if this is not available, wear a plastic apron and roll up sleeves
  • gloves

Follow advice from the World Health Organization (WHO) on infection prevention and control.

Airborne precautions are only needed if an aerosol-generating procedure is being performed on a patient with suspected or confirmed coronavirus.

Personal protective equipment

Watch a video on how to put on and take off personal protective equipment correctly in an acute hospital setting.

Watch a video on how to put on and take off personal protective equipment correctly in a non-acute health setting.


Read guidance documents from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) on:

  • infection prevention and control guidance for coronavirus
  • advice for GPs on assessment and management of patients with suspected coronavirus infection

More information for health professionals is available through The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC)

23/02/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Sunday Video: Unfinished Business in CoAction Cork

Over 1,000 Section 39 workers took strike action on Friday 21st February in an effort to resolve a dispute over pay restoration.

It is the first of a number of strikes that will be rolled out on a phased basis over the coming weeks.

Watch this video and find out more from our members in Co-Action, Bantry, West Cork.

20/02/2020 Comments are off Patrick Cole

SIPTU secures pay restoration agreement for hundreds of home care workers in Dublin 

SIPTU representatives have today (Thursday, 20th February) confirmed that up to 500 home helps working in community and disability services across Dublin city and county have reached an agreement to have their pay restored and have deferred strike action planned for tomorrow (Friday, 21st February).

It follows an agreement brokered by the Workplace Relations Commission to implement pay restoration in full for SIPTU members in Terenure Home Helps Services, Crumlin Home Care Services and Dublin West Home Care Services. St Marys Centre (Telford) nursing home in Dublin has formally confirmed its intention to implement pay restoration with immediate effect.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell said: “In response to our members determined struggle to secure the implementation of a national agreement for section 39 community and disability services, our members in Terenure Home Helps Services, Crumlin Home Care Services and Dublin West Home Care Services have today received formal confirmation from their employers that they will receive have their pay restored with immediate effect.”

“The decision to restore pay by employers and the Health Service Executive (HSE) has allowed for our members to stand down their planned strike action for tomorrow and instead focus on what they do best, caring for the most vulnerable their communities. While SIPTU Health Division is satisfied with the outcome we find it most regrettable and unnecessary that the employers and the HSE allowed this matter to go to the eleventh hour. This has caused a great degree of anxiety for our members and their clients.”

He added: “Unfortunately, the strike action planned in other Section 39 organisations throughout the country will go ahead tomorrow. Our members are determined to see this dispute through and win the pay justice they deserve.”

Hundreds of SIPTU members working in Section 39 organisations set to strike on Friday

SIPTU Public Sector representatives have today (Wednesday, 19th February) confirmed that members in selected Section 39 organisations across the country will take strike action on Friday (21st, February) in an effort to resolve a dispute over pay restoration.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “The treatment of these vital community health workers, who work in areas such as home care, dementia and alzheimer services, is totally unacceptable. Strike action is the only option left open to our members to policy makers andthose who fund the services to sit up and take notice. SIPTU representatives have fought long and hard to win a pay restoration formula that could be applied across Section 39 organisations and the continued refusal of these organisations, aided and abetted by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, to vindicate their rights will not be tolerated by our members.

“Our members in these organisations, all low paid workers, are falling further behind, having endured cuts in pay of approximately 6% and a reduction in their hours which has had a knock on effect on service users and their families. They now have been left with no option other than to take action on Friday.”

He said: “The number of members involved in this dispute nationally is roughly 6,000 and strikes will be rolled out on a phased basis, in every part of the country, over the coming weeks. The amount of money the Department requires to fairly resolve this dispute is no more than €7 million which is small change for the incoming Government but it would give our members a big break.”

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Eddie Mullins, said: “During this entire dispute our members demonstrated great compassion and responsibility by doing everything in their power to achieve a legitimate objective without affecting services to vulnerable clients and will continue to do so. Unfortunately, within the sector there is often a blatant disregard by employers who take advantage of thegood nature of staff and ignore accepted industrial relations procedures. Many workers in the sector were subject to pay cuts during the austerity years similar tothose imposed on their colleagues in the public sector.”

He added: “The outgoing government failed to recognise that they have a right to pay restoration and pension provision in line with the improvements secured in more recent years by public sector workers.”