10/03/2019 Comments are off SIPTU Health

Time to Raise the Roof again

ANOTHER parliamentary report, more criticism of current housing policy. The Oireachtas Housing Committee’s recent report questioned: “whether Rebuilding Ireland can remain as the current blueprint for tackling the issues of housing and homelessness”.

This is a polite way of saying what most people concluded some time ago – government policy is not working.

The Government insists that the primary delivery vehicle for housing is the private sector. To this end, it must employ a range of subsidies to developers and private interests. This is not only costly; it has the perverse effect of driving up prices. And there is less money for policies that could really make a positive impact.

Let’s look at some of these subsidies:

  • The Housing Assistance Payment (HAP)

This is the flagship scheme among a number of rent subsidies. These subsidies provide payments to tenants who cannot afford their rents in the private sector.

They will cost the state more than 3 billion over the next few years.

These payments are ultimately a subsidy to the landlord. Secondly, subsidies drive up rent as landlords can keep raising prices at the public’s expense. Third, in the long-term, they are more costly: it is cheaper to build public housing and rent it directly to the tenant.

On this last point, the Government doesn’t have to take our word here in Liberty. The Department of Finance’s own analysis last year concluded: “It is estimated that, based on the Local Authority areas analysed, the . . . cost of delivering units through mechanisms such as HAP, RAS and leasing is higher than construction and/or acquisition.” Enough said.

  • The Land Development Agency

The purpose of this agency is to coordinate all publicly-held land with the purpose of developing it for house-building. In theory, this is a good idea. The State owns a lot of land and not just at local authority level. Land is also held by public agencies, including NAMA, Government departments, semi- states, etc.

A co-ordinating agency can create efficiencies and provide more land for house-building.

The problem is we don’t know what the Government intends to do with this land. The fear is that it will engage in a massive transfer to private developers who will build for profit, selling or leasing 10% or 20% of the houses back to the state – at market rates.

Land would be lost, affordability wouldn’t really be affordable and the costs to public authorities of leasing or purchasing would be higher than if they just built the houses themselves.

The Land Development Agency has the capacity to engage in the biggest transfer of public wealth to private interests since the bailout of bank creditors and the massive property disposals of public lands by NAMA.

  • The House Building Finance Agency (HBFI)

 This little-known agency was established by the Government to support smaller developers who couldn’t get bank loans. Recently, the Government made available 750 million to the agency to loan out. Some might argue this isn’t a subsidy since the agency will be lending at ‘market rates’. This is true. But look at the alternative.

The State can borrow at ridiculously low rates – one per cent – and this is likely to continue for some time as Eurozone governments continue to depress their economies through irrational austerity policies. The market, however, lends at 8%. The developer’s borrowing costs are thousands of euros more a year which is passed on in a higher mortgage.

This simple comparison makes the point – lending at ‘market’ rates only embeds high costs into house prices (while the bank earns more in interest payments).

In the end, it is the purchaser who pays the subsidy and the higher mortgage, with the developer making a tidy profit. If the State built the house itself, it could sell or rent it at a much lower price.

HAP, the Land Development Agency, the House Building Finance Agency – all these are just a few of the subsidies and incentives to private developers and the private housing sector.

The alternative is simpler and much less costly:

  • Public land for public housing only – no sell-offs to private interests.
  • The State to build houses for affordable rental and affordable purchase – without profit or speculation.
  • And whether for rent or purchase – no means-tests.
  • In other words, public housing for all.

It is time to Raise the Roof . . . again.

10/03/2019 Comments are off SIPTU Health

WRC talks on enhanced nurse contract to continue tomorrow

Nursing and Midwifery talks under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission have tonight concluded without agreement on the Enhanced Nurse contract.

Management represented by the HSE, Department of Health and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has maintained a rigid position on fundamental issues concerning our members’ hours of work, rosters, redeployment, work location and assimilation to the new enhanced payscale all of which are of fundamental concern.

SIPTU has continually opposed management’s objectives in all of these key areas, all of which fundamentally challenge the terms and conditions of nurses & midwives employment.

At the conclusion of talks tonight, the Workplace Relations Commission invited parties to re-engage at 16:00hrs tomorrow (Sunday, 10th March).

SIPTU has accepted this invitation.

08/03/2019 Comments are off SIPTU Health

Nursing Contract Talks continue

SIPTU Nursing representatives have today (Friday, 8th March) confirmed that negotiations on the proposed new nursing contact will continue at 3.30pm at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

Updates to follow.

04/03/2019 Comments are off SIPTU Health

SIPTU Nursing to attend WRC hearing this week

SIPTU Nursing representatives have today (Monday, 4th March) confirmed that negotiations between unions and officials at the Health Service Executive, Department of Health and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform have been referred to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “SIPTU representatives have been contacted by the WRC to inform our union that a referral has been made by employers (HSE) seeking their assistance on the draft contract for enhanced nurses. SIPTU will not support a contract which seeks to destabilise a workforce, remove the concept of a recognised place of work or creates uncertainty for the workforce providing service.”

“It is incumbent that any flexibility required of the nursing/midwifery profession must be linked to the development of such policies as the implementation of SlainteCare and the development of community service, and not merely be viewed as an employer attempting to blatantly deconstruct existing working day or base locations.”

A general nursing meeting will be convened the WRC this week, followed by a mental health meeting.

SIPTU will be in attendance for both and further updates will be made available on the SIPTU Health App.

03/03/2019 Comments are off SIPTU Health

A new weapon in the war against low pay

From next Monday (4th March), the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, becomes the law of the land.

This vital piece of legislation gives workers on flexible and low-hours contracts new rights and entitlements on working hours and pay.

Trade union representatives fought hard for this new law. The employers didn’t want to give an inch. The new law gives more certainty to the lives of tens of thousands of workers across Ireland, particularly in hospitality, home care, retail and catering sectors, but only if the employer actually implements it.

As trade union members, we know zero-hour and low-hour contracts give employers control over the lives of workers. This power imbalance makes it very difficult for workers to speak up, plan their lives or make ends meet.

Bad employers often use the threat of reduced hours to keep workers in line and to punish workers for being unavailable for work at very short notice. This legislation re-tips the balance and makes progress in giving workers back control.

Set down in law are minimum payments for workers if their employer fails to provide them with work or sends a worker home without pay having reported for duty. Workers are also now entitled to be guaranteed hours of work that reflect their normal working week.

The practice of putting workers on a low-hour contract while in reality, they work a much longer week is now effectively banned.

The best way to enforce this law in your workplace is to ensure that every worker is in the union.

02/03/2019 Comments are off SIPTU Health

Nursing contract talks adjourn

SIPTU representatives have tonight (Friday, 1st March) said that talks between nursing unions and Department of Health, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and Health Service Executive (HSE) officials on the details of a proposed contract of employment for the new Enhanced Nurse post within have adjourned until Wednesday 6th March.

At the discussions, SIPTU representatives raised serious concerns about the scale of the changes in the proposed new contract and informed stakeholders that SIPTU members must be consulted on any changes in their terms and conditions.

Following the meeting, SIPTU Sector Organiser, Kevin Figgis said: ‘We had a full and frank exchange with the Government departments regarding the proposed draft contract. We outlined our strong views this document will not be acceptable to our membership in its current form and significant change is required.”

SIPTU Health Division Organiser Paul Bell, said: “Elements of the proposed draft are a retrograde step backwards for nursing and midwifery. We understand the employers will consider the points made by our team and we look forward to further engagement next week.”

SIPTU Health will provide further updates to our members in the coming days.

01/03/2019 Comments are off SIPTU Health

Pay Boost for New Entrants kicks in today

Thousands of ‘new entrants’ working in healthcare across the public service are to receive increases in pay from today (Friday, 1st March).

The deal, negotiated by SIPTU and other unions under the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA) will see Ambulance Professionals, Radiographers, Nurses, Midwives and Support Grade staff recruited since 2011 receive a pay boost of up to €3,500.

The change happens when each worker affected hits their fourth and eighth increment date. This arrangement will see a pay increase and ensure that new entrants’ reach the top of their pay scales over the same time period as colleagues hired before 2011.

The term ‘new entrants’ refers to people who started work in the health and public service, and organisations linked to it for pay purposes, after 2011, when reduced pay scales for new staff were imposed by the Government without agreement.

These scales, which were worth 10% less at every point, were abolished at the insistence of the unions under the 2013 Haddington Road Agreement.

However, until now, new entrants continued to have more lengthy pay scales than their longer-serving colleagues, with two lower pay points at the beginning of each scale.

The PSSA established a process to address this problem. Following detailed discussions and inputs from SIPTU and other unions, this resulted in the solution that takes effect from today.

01/03/2019 Comments are off SIPTU Health

Talks on new nursing contract continue

SIPTU representatives will attend another round of talks on a new nursing contract with officials from the Department of Health, the HSE and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform  on Friday (1st March) at 2.30pm.

SIPTU nursing and midwifery members, working across acute hospital settings, will vote on a recent Labour Court recommendation once full details of a new contract for nurses and midwives is negotiated with nursing union representatives. The decision follows a meeting on Friday, 22nd February of the SIPTU Nursing and Midwives Sector Committee in Liberty Hall, Dublin.

For a summary of the Labour Court recommendation  (LCR 21901) click here


27/02/2019 Comments are off SIPTU Health

SIPTU Ambulance Professionals update

SIPTU members working in the National Ambulance Service are not currently in dispute with their employer.

Our members are working to provide vital public services in communities across Ireland.

SIPTU members are expected to report for duty as normal on Thursday (28th February) and Friday (1st March).

Should you need any additional information please email ask@siptuhealth.ie or contact your local SIPTU official.

26/02/2019 Comments are off SIPTU Health

Nurses Regional Meeting

A regional meeting of SIPTU members working in Nursing and Midwifery services will be held tomorrow (27th February) in Liberty Hall, Dublin 1. To book a place please contact your local organiser.

The meeting will take place at 7pm in Room 207 and will be addressed by SIPTU Industrial Organiser, John McCamley.

Information leaflets will be distributed on the night for circulation.