02/06/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth

Pay Talks Update: Litmus Test Looming

There is little to report on the outcome of day nine (Thursday, 1st June) of the pay talks other then, they were brief and dull. SIPTU representatives attended a couple of sessions in the afternoon on sectoral issues in health as well as discussions on education and the civil service.

However, we had no real or meaningful engagement with management on the bread and butter issue of pay. Indeed, management seems more than content to head off for the bank holiday weekend without putting concrete proposals that are “fit for ballot” on the table.

Yesterday, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, addressed our colleagues in IMPACT at their Health Conference in Wexford where he said he thought a deal could be done.

IMPACT General Secretary and Chairman of the Public Service Committee of Congress, Shay Cody, reiterated to his delegates that management would have to ditch its outsourcing proposals – and come up with something of substance on pay restoration – before any deal could be put to a ballot.

Today (Friday, 2nd June), we enter our tenth day of talks. A day that was earmarked by Government as the final day when the process started but after two weeks the sides are miles away from an agreement that will acceptable to our members.

It is deeply concerning and regrettable that over the last number of days management has demonstrated an indifference to our members’ concerns on pay. It is very difficult for SIPTU Health representatives to have confidence in a process where management continues to make productivity demands which far exceed those made of us throughout the period of austerity.

The majority of workers in the health service have been doing more work for less pay for many years. They feel that the time is now right for some pay back.

It is likely that Tuesday and Wednesday of next week will be the litmus test in this round of negotiations. Our core demands on pay restoration, pension levy reduction, no outsourcing, and pensions – including staff contributions to their costs will be ironed out and the issues of working time, recruitment and new entrants’ pay will be determined one way or another.

01/06/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth

Pay Talks Update: United we stand, divided we beg

Yesterday (Wednesday, 31st May), SIPTU representatives said it would be wildly optimistic to think that a deal could be done by the original target date of this Friday (2nd June).

As we enter the ninth day of negotiations with their recommencement at 2.00 p.m. today (Thursday, 1st June) a number of our trade union colleagues have voiced their utter frustration that no detailed costed proposals specifying potential pay restoration or increases in pension contributions have been put forward in any meaningful way.

Government outsourcing proposals remain utterly unacceptable to SIPTU representatives and we have reiterated to the employer that outsourcing is red line our members will not cross.

With limited financial room for manoeuvre in 2018 and a so-called fiscal space of just €200 million, that only some of which can be allocated to pay, there will be difficult choices to make for all parties. SIPTU representatives remain committed to the “United we stand, divided we beg” policy of the Public Service Committee of ICTU.

As we said yesterday it is extremely likely negotiations on an extension to the Lansdowne Road Agreement will run into next week. SIPTU representatives also warned yesterday that there was no guarantee that a new public service agreement can be reached with the Government.

In the coming days, we may have the first real test for our new Taoiseach in waiting.

31/05/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth

Pay Talks Update: Closing in on crunch time

Yesterday (Tuesday, 30th May), on day seven of the pay talks, there was an anticlimactic engagement with management on the restoration of overtime rates. Unions then demanded more consistency in the application of family-friendly arrangements across the public service.

A number of union spokespeople acknowledged the fact that good family-friendly practices like flexi-time, term-time working and job-sharing had been adopted and were working well in many parts of our public services.

Union representatives said local managers had too much discretion, which meant family-friendly arrangements were often blocked by bosses who see them simply as a perk, meaning workers in some areas are losing out.

This should be a win-win situation. Family-friendly working helps employers retain staff, encourages increased female participation in the workforce (which is a Government objective), and makes life more manageable and affordable for working families and others with caring responsibilities.

SIPTU representatives and our colleagues in IMPACT have suggested that an extension to the Lansdowne Road Agreement should set down best practice, and establish a process to deal with disputes over its local and sectoral implementation.

Management hasn’t blinked on that issue, but union representatives are sure to return to this before talks conclude.

As we enter day eight (Wednesday, 31st May) we are no closer to a deal than we were on day one. It is very unlikely that any proposal that crucially would be good enough to pass a ballot of our membership will be concluded before the Bank Holiday weekend.

The only thing that all sides are currently agreed upon is that next week will be crunch-time in this talks process.

30/05/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth

Pay Talks Update: Slow Pace, Fiscal Space

At noon, today (Tuesday, 30th May) SIPTU representatives will enter the seventh day of the public service pay talks and progress has been undeniably slow and frustrating at times.

For what was meant to be a ten-day process, the sides are as far apart as ever.

This is mainly down to Government, as the employer, reiterating the limitations of the fiscal space for 2018 while refusing to provide unions with detailed pay and pension proposals bar some soundings that workers should pay more for their pension.

The reality for SIPTU representatives is that if we are to not get lost this limited “fiscal space” our members will want something of substance that can pass a ballot.

On today’s agenda are sessions on overtime rates and rostering.

Yesterday, (Monday, 29th May) SIPTU representatives attended sessions on recruitment and retention where SIPTU Ambulance Professionals, Radiation Therapists, Radiographers, HCAs & all catering groups were identified as experiencing difficulties in filling posts and our representatives raised two-tier pay systems in the public service as a major barrier to recruitment.

So far throughout the talks management’s presentations have been dominated by the limited “fiscal space” of €200m for next year and said pay will be competing for that money with other priorities including housing and childcare.

We believe these options are not mutually exclusive.

Meanwhile, the Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Health Care launched their report this morning. You can access the findings here.


29/05/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth

Pay Talks Update: Not fit for ballot

Tensions are expected to remain high at the public sector talks today (Monday, 29th May) as we enter week two and sides sit down to discuss pay, pensions and the recruitment and retention of health staff.

This follows week one’s pitch from management to make thousands of public sector workers work Saturday shifts without any extra or “premium” payments and to pursue an outsourcing agenda that is not fit for ballot.

As the only congress union representing cleaners, porters, catering staff, health care assistants, ambulance professionals, radiographers and radiation therapists, areas most exposed to the threat of privatisation, SIPTU representatives made it clear to management we will not give a millimetre on outsourcing.

There has also been plenty of media speculation over the weekend that government will seek to trade pay restoration in return for productivity improvements. SIPTU representatives are clear that pay cuts were implemented in a time of emergency and, now that the emergency is over, pay should be restored and productivity should be negotiated separately.

Week one of the talks was dominated by unions resisting management’s ‘productivity’ agenda which seems designed to reduce incomes, rather than restore them and an outsourcing project that seeks to replace quality services and decent work with minimum wage and bottom-line worker protections.

Let’s hope week two sees DPER officials being more creative than rehashing demands for stuff unions refused to concede at the height of the crisis and start to address the elephant in the room; the €4,000 in extra special pay conceded to Gardai before Christmas.

It is undeniable that this will shape the pay expectations of our members. The government must realise that they can’t have it both ways. They can’t be restrictive in the approach to pay recovery while stating their aim is to get all (or most) public servants out of FEMPI over the course of an extension to the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

27/05/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth

Pay Talks Update: Isn’t the emergency over?

Yesterday (Friday, 26th May) union representatives told Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) officials there’d be no concessions on premium payments for Saturday working.

This followed management’s fishing exercise for a ‘review’ of already-modest Saturday payments as part of an extension to the Lansdowne Road agreement.

SIPTU representatives along with our colleagues in IMPACT led the charge to reject management’s pitch and insisted the idea was a non-runner, not least because union representatives are in Lansdowne House to talk about pay restoration not pay cuts!

A key question was put to management as to why, in May 2017, management continues to table proposals that were rejected at the height of the crisis. Management scratched their heads.

The Public Service Pay Commission report said pay adjustments should as always, be contingent on cooperation with productivity and reform measures. Few people have a problem with that, but some on the management team seem to think we’re still under the yolk of the Troika.

In a similar vein, DPER is also looking for a review process aimed at introducing Saturday working in additional, though unspecified, parts the public service.

SIPTU representatives reminded them that thousands of public servants work weekends, and Saturday working has been introduced in many areas following local or sectoral agreements.

In other words, you don’t need this in a national deal to gain flexibilities if they’re really needed.

Time will tell if DPER wants to push these issues. What is certain, at the end of week one, is that management’s desire to weaken outsourcing protections is a serious roadblock.

For, SIPTU outsourcing is a red line. We won’t be going there.

Talks have adjourned until Monday (29th May), when pay, pensions, and recruitment and retention issues are on the agenda.

26/05/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth

Pay Talks Update: Sustainable and of substance

We’re back into the talks this morning (Friday, 26th May) after a day’s respite yesterday as we held a special delegate conference to restructure the union and the political fund of our union while our colleagues in IMPACT held its executive meeting.

On today’s agenda is working patterns (including Saturday working) performance management and recruitment. SIPTU representatives will be continuing to pursue our strategy of protecting the working conditions of all low – middle earners in the public service and to stand against the outsourcing of our members work.

In earlier updates, we explored the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s (DPER) ‘fiscal space’ presentation, which they made on day one of the talks. In it, they told us there would be €550 million of fiscal space in 2018, but that just €200 million would be left after existing commitments are met.

The pressure eases in the following years, with €1 billion expected to be available to spend in each of the following three years – 2019, 2020 and 2021. There will also be other calls on the four-year total of €3.2 billion, including demands for extra public service staffing.

But it’s not a lot to play with, especially next year. Unions usually work to ‘front-load’ pay deals, so that the biggest payments come early on. That looks like being very difficult this time While we recognise all this, pay restoration also brings a value to the State and its people and that line will continue to be pressed by SIPTU representatives.

SIPTU representatives accept that pay adjustments must be affordable and sustainable, but they also need to have substance. Otherwise, our members simply won’t back them in the ballots that must follow the negotiation process.

To put it another way, no deal will be accepted if it lacks substance. And if it’s not accepted, the Government and new Taoiseach won’t have the stability they seek and will be back on the doorsteps within weeks.

As ever, we will keep you informed of any developments on our website, social media and App.

25/05/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth

Pay Talks Update: Defending low/middle waged public service workers

SIPTU representatives have spent the last three days in pay talks defending the pensions, the pay and working conditions all low and middle waged workers in the public service.

The opening sessions yesterday (Wednesday, 25th May) on pension contributions, outsourcing, working hours and rostering are really about each side setting out its stall – and individual unions and departments making sure the issues vital to their own membership get on the agenda. SIPTU is no different.

The sessions also assist the independent Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) facilitators to a good handle of the range and scope of the issues at hand, before the end game begins.

Yesterday afternoon’s short session on recruitment practices quickly led the WRC to declare that smaller sectoral meetings were needed. Earlier in the day, a more fractious session on pension contributions (as predicted, the Government wants most public servants to pay more towards their pensions) ended with the facilitators deciding to set up specific sessions on each of the complex and difficult issues involved.

This is likely to be the pattern for the rest of this week. Later on, red line positions on both sides will become clearer. And eventually the possible shape of the various aspects of a deal will emerge. Experience suggests that the pace will then pick up, before slowing down again as the most important and difficult issues are thrashed out in the dying hours of the process.

There was also a frank exchange on working time yesterday. Unions made clear the issue of the ‘Croke Park hours’ wasn’t going away, notwithstanding Minister Donohoe’s repeated ‘red line’ statements on the matter.

Unions will be returning to this in the coming days.

We’re back in on Friday as there is a SIPTU conference today and an IMPACT executive meeting. But we’ll have something for you tomorrow morning to close the weeks’ proceedings.

24/05/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth

Pay Talks Update: Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

Yesterday, (Tuesday, 23rd May) we reported outsourcing was firmly on management’s agenda.

Management wants to weaken existing protections in the Lansdowne Road agreement (LRA), which prevent outsourcing on a ‘race to the bottom’ basis.

At present, if management wants to outsource a service or part of a service, the LRA requires it to consult with unions and produce a business plan setting out the case for what it calls ‘external service delivery.’

Crucially, it can’t cite labour costs or pay as part of the business plan.

Abandoning the ‘labour cost’ provision would mean pretty much every business case would support outsourcing – on the basis of minimum wage and a race to the bottom for services and working standards.

SIPTU representatives made it clear that there’d be no agreement that didn’t protect the hard-fought gains for working people in the public service.

Today (Wednesday, 24th, May) from 10.30 am, SIPTU representatives will set out the case for the restoration of the so-called ‘Croke Park hours’. This is won’t be easy, not least because Minister Paschal Donohoe has said keeping the additional hours is a ‘red line’ for him and Government.

We also expect to hear more from management on employee pension contributions.

One or two readers have asked us why we’re even discussing management’s productivity wish-list in talks that are meant to centre on pay restoration. It’s a fair question.

But, aside from the fact that the Public Service Pay Commission said additional productivity was required in exchange for pay restoration, the simple answer is that these are negotiations where either side can table whatever they want.

Unions want to talk about things management would sooner not discuss, and vice versa.

Later in the process, we’ll have a clearer picture of the bottom lines.

For the moment, union representatives remain absolutely focused on the key objectives of protecting the value of pensions and unwinding FEMPI as quickly as sustainably possible.

In the meantime, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

23/05/2017 Comments are off SIPTUhealth

Pay Talks Update: Outsourcing, rosters, contracts.

The second full session of pay talks adjourned today (Tuesday, 23rd May) shortly before 4 pm.

SIPTU Health representatives spent the session fully engaged in detailed and intense negotiations on outsourcing, apprenticeships and various other non-pay issues including rosters and contracts of indefinite duration.

Talks officially kicked off yesterday (Monday, 22nd May) with a finance department presentation on the broad economic outlook with major health warnings over Brexit and other external risks.

The presentation on the economic outlook by John McCarthy (Chief Economist at the Department of Finance) is available here.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) followed up with projections that suggested that 2018 will be the tightest of the next three years in terms of cash available for pay restoration and other spending priorities.

The presentation by Annette Connolly (Central Expenditure Management section in DPER) is available here.

DPER went on to outline its productivity wish-list in the afternoon, and unions set out their non-pay agenda items, including working hours. DPER issued a statement after the talks adjourned yesterday, saying it would not issue further statements until talks have concluded.

The Fine Gael leadership contest still looms large over the talks, as front-runner Leo Varadkar announced his intention to introduce legislation banning public sector workers from striking in ‘essential services’ if elected Taoiseach. Trade unionists and political parties were quick to criticise Dr Varadkar’s plans to erode workers’ rights to strike.

Our colleague Bernard Harbor described the pledge as ‘disproportionate’ given the relatively few days lost through industrial action, and unions’ responsible provision of emergency and essential cover on the rare occasions that strikes do occur.

As trade union members, we know all too well that our economic recovery was aided by responsible trade unions collectively bargaining with employers to ensure our public services weathered the worst economic storm in the history of the state.

We strongly believe that legislative attempt to restrict workers’ right to strike would be disproportionate and ultimately damaging to good industrial relations practice.

This is a major u-turn from the man predicted to be our next Taoiseach. When Dr Varadkar was Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport he said the right to strike was a “pretty basic human right in most democracies.”

We will have a full update for members in the morning and an evening report on day three of the talks. Items on the agenda for day three include pensions, CID, recruitment and working time.