SIPTU welcomes talks on injustice of lower pay for new entrants to public service

SIPTU representatives have welcomed a decision by the Government to enter discussions with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) on the issue of lower pay scales for new entrants to the public service.

The agreement follows representations to the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohue, by the Public Services Committee (PSC) of the ICTU on the new entrants’ pay differential.

A report published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) today (16th March) found that some 58,000 new entrants to the public sector have been adversely affected by the unilateral cut to their pay scale imposed in 2011. The report estimated that it would cost an estimated €200 million to resolve the problem, in a full year.

SIPTU and other public service unions had opposed the lower pay scales when they were imposed by Government during the economic crisis and sought to resolve the issue during negotiations for the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA) last year and previously the Haddington Road Agreement.

It was confirmed by DEPR today that discussions to resolve the injustice of lower pay scales for new entrants are to take place.

“SIPTU members have consistently argued that it was unfair of the Government to cut the entry grade of pay for workers joining the public service, since 2011. We now have an opportunity to resolve this injustice through dialogue within the terms of the PSSA,” said SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell.

Congress General Secretary Patricia King said that securing new talks on the issue marked “a significant step towards the resolution of this long-standing problem, which resulted from a unilateral government decision to cut new entrants’ pay, in 2011. This development will, in the context of the terms of the Public Service Stability Agreement, allow this dialogue to commence.
“At its most basic, this was and remains a simple issue of fairness and equality. The decision to cut entry grade pay across the public service was never endorsed or accepted by trade unions and we have consistently sought to bring this injustice to an end.” Ms King said.
A report on the issue published today (16th March) by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) found that some 60,000 new entrants to the public sector has been adversely affected by the unilateral cut imposed in 2011 and that it would cost an estimated €200 million to resolve the problem, in a full year.

Section 39 Pay Justice Campaign Countdown

Agreement at a glance

INDEPENDENT assessment and analysis of pay data submitted by Section 39 Organisations to report by 31st March 2018.Link between Section 39 workers and HSE workers RECOGNISED
Pay Restoration implementation group ESTABLISHED
RESTORATION to commence on a phased basis this year.
VIABLE process to restore the pay of thousands of Section 39 workers SECURED
STRIKE ACTION not cancelled but deferred for six weeks to allow time for assessment and analysis report to be produced.
The campaign to ORGANISE Section 39 workers continues to ensure PAY JUSTICE for all! Join SIPTU today! 

Download a workplace leaflet here

Public Sector Pay: Where are we now?

The speech below is from Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Pascal Donohue. He was speaking at the IRN Conference in Dublin on Thursday 9th March on “industrial relations in a time of heightened expectations’

I find the theme of this year’s event — ‘Where are we now? Industrial relations in a time of heightened expectations’ — both apt and timely in the current context. But before getting into that in more detail, I’d like to ask you all to take a minute to reflect on where we are coming from.

This country has come through a deep crisis over the last decade — but it has done so in a climate of widespread industrial relations peace across its public service.

To my mind this is a huge achievement — especially when we see the unrest that other countries have endured — and one that probably doesn’t get enough credit.

There is little doubt that industrial peace during those difficult years contributed in a very tangible way to restoring Ireland’s international reputation and creating the conditions for economic recovery to take root and for jobs to return.

It is easy to take this for granted and we should take care not to do so. It took a huge investment of time and effort by all concerned to deliver and sustain industrial peace during this challenging period.

This deserves to be acknowledged.

Three collective agreements have provided the framework for that to be achieved — the Croke Park Agreement, the Haddington Road Agreement and the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

Together these agreements have enabled the delivery of an ambitious agenda of public service reform, together with significant savings and efficiencies in the public service pay bill.

Ensuring that both formal and informal lines of communication between the parties were fully utilised was critical during these very difficult times, as well as proactively using the dispute resolution mechanisms provided for within the agreements to overcome problems as they arose.

More recently, for example, we have re-invigorated the oversight structures under the Lansdowne Road Agreement and this has helped us to respond effectively to the challenges faced in recent months.

THE CASE FOR COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT

As I speak to you today, we are preparing the ground for negotiations on a further collective agreement. So a valid question to ask at this juncture is: Do we need a new agreement? I believe we do.

Why? Because a collective agreement encompassing as many parties as possible is the surest way to guarantee a stable and fair industrial relations environment into the future.

More broadly speaking though, an agreement and the stability it brings is, I believe, important for successfully managing a small, open economy such as Ireland’s which has a high level of external economic challenge: it furthermore provides clarity and certainty around the management of the Exchequer pay bill which accounts for over a third of all public expenditure.

Industrial relations stability also helps Ireland to continue to attract foreign direct investment, delivering much needed employment.

I think you will agree that stability is essential in a time of such global flux and uncertainty as we now face.

An agreement is positive too for those workers within that agreement. Remember, a natural response to the fiscal crisis we faced might have been compulsory redundancies, but we didn’t go down that road.

Sacrifices were undoubtedly made, but through the various collective agreements, we made every effort to minimise the burden of pay cuts on the lower paid and to prioritise these groups in the restoration of pay.

What the agreements give to public servants is a fair deal and a level playing field.

They ensure no lay-offs but they also ensure no leap-frogging.

For me, the inherent fairness of this approach is really important. We shouldn’t set public pay based on a reactive response to those who shout loudest or who are better placed to exert influence.

We have to ensure an equitable approach that considers all of our public servants on equal merit.

An inclusive collective approach is the best way to do that in my view.

Step outside of that framework and you are stepping into an “I win — you lose” negative and perverse type of situation in which there will inevitably be more losers than winners.

And one group guaranteed to be losers in that ‘win — lose’ scenario is the public who cannot afford to be used as pawns in this way.

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS

To return to the theme of the conference — we are at a time of heightened expectations. Of that there is no doubt.

In many ways though, this is a by-product of a growing economy that is emerging from a difficult period.

So, in that sense, rising expectations are an indicator of success — it shows that people generally are confident that things are moving in the right direction.

However, we need to temper these expectations or we will end up right back where we began.

We have to ensure that the huge sacrifices of our citizens, including the public servants who have worked longer hours for less money, are not lost.

Thanks to prudent planning, we are in the relatively better position of having escaped the fate of many of our neighbours in Europe: we are a country in recovery, with steadily declining unemployment and steadily rising economic growth.

With recovery taking hold, it would be unforgivable, therefore, to seek to return to the type of decision-making which necessitated the very difficult sacrifices in the first place.

Nor is it realistic to think that we can meet every present demand or every past grievance that surfaces.

If we want to see the end of financial emergency legislation for good, then we can’t make reckless fiscal choices.

I believe a collective agreement encompassing public service pay and further reform will be key to ensuring that we grow expenditure and pay in an affordable and sustainable strategic way.

It will allow Government to strike a balance between affordable pay increases for public servants and other social priorities including improvements in housing and health care.

An agreement can also ensure that we continue to deliver further public service reform and service improvements for citizens.

I have made the case for a collective agreement, but I would like to sound a note of realism about what is possible from a fiscal perspective.

And here I am very anxious to avoid any suggestion that I may be commencing the negotiations process in public — which is a matter for a later time.

But nevertheless, there are fiscal realities and constraints within which we as Government must operate and I would like these to be better understood — which is not easy given their complexity!

In simple terms, even if we didn’t have obligations under the EU fiscal rules, there would be an onus on us to manage our pay policy in a disciplined and prudent fashion.

The current rules mean, however, that notwithstanding heightened expectations and strong economic growth, resources remain significantly constrained over the medium-term.

We are still running a deficit for example — in 2016 we were still borrowing close to €7m a day to fund the delivery of public services. And we are still working to meet our Medium Term Objective under the Fiscal Rules by 2018 which, if achieved, may provide Government with more latitude in future years.

So constrained resources mean difficult choices have to be made.

A growing but ageing population means we face increased demand for public services, whether in health, education or social protection.

Investment has to be made in these services to meet this demand, as well as in other areas where pressures are emerging as a result of a growing economy — childcare, housing and infrastructure for example.

In a public service context, our frontline services are under immense pressure, with staffing levels still in the process of being consolidated.

Government recognises this and is working to address these pressures by investing in the recruitment of additional front-line staff.

Increasing staff numbers, however important and worthwhile, add to the costs of the Exchequer pay bill.

As do pay improvements for public servants which is a sign of a normal functioning efficient economy and rightly aspired to by all interests concerned.

So a balance has to be struck here between these two important levers if we are to maintain control and stability over expenditure in the coming years and comply with our fiscal obligations.

PRODUCTIVITY AND REFORM

This speaks to the need to focus on further productivity and efficiency improvements in our public service in the years ahead.

I have mentioned the significant programme of savings and reform that were achieved under both the Croke Park and Haddington Road Agreements.

These savings and reforms have allowed us to legitimately say that we were ‘doing more with less’.

They have also contributed in no small measure to ensuring that the normal pay increase expectations on the part of public servants and their representatives can be realised both now and into the future.

The reform and productivity measures in the previous agreements have delivered — and continue to deliver — real results in terms of supporting the delivery of front-line services on which all of our citizens depend to varying degrees — at a time when public expenditure was reduced.

Some examples of what I’m referring to include:

The additional hours secured under the Haddington Road Agreement, which remain critical to enabling us to meet increased demand in front-line service areas and to improve services to the public generally.

The establishment of streamlined shared service operations across the public service, such as SUSI in the education sector and the National Shared Service Office.

Consolidation and re-organisation to deliver efficiencies involving the merger of agencies and creation of streamlined structures, such as the Education Training Boards and in local government.

Moving more services online, including motor tax and Revenue’s myAccount for example.

Developing integrated one-stop shop solutions for the public, such as the INTREO office network in the Department of Social Protection.

Reform is also about improving the work environment for public servants through initiatives aimed at improving our approach to learning and development and facilitating opportunities for greater mobility.

You may think the urgency has passed in relation to all of that but let me assure you it hasn’t.

Because the only way we can respond to both the increased demands on our public services and the expectations of public servants to see their pay start to grow again — within the limited room for manoeuvre we have on the public finances — is to look again at how we can further improve on productivity and efficiency gains in the public service.

This means building on the structural reforms and work practices changes introduced under previous agreements.

My Department are now in the process of drawing up a new three-year Public Service Reform Plan which will set out our vision for the next wave of reform.

We will be looking to consolidate the good progress made to date and to set out the further steps that need to be taken to realise our goals around ensuring we deliver top quality public services in a cost effective way.

Of course, public servants are taxpayers and citizens too — something often conveniently forgotten by those seeking to foster division — and will make their own minds up on how the available fiscal space should be allocated across pay, staffing, tax reductions, childcare, housing, health and other priority areas.

MOVING FORWARD

There is perhaps a feeling in the air — given developments over the last year — that we can’t continue as we have or that collective agreements in the public service have had their day. I disagree.

This is an incredibly short-sighted way of looking at things. It is effectively refusing to make choices that are necessary for the greater common good. That approach — if universally applied — would be very destructive and counter-productive.

Everyone ultimately loses in this scenario.

For all of the reasons I have outlined — not least the need for inherent fairness and balance — a collective approach is as important as ever.

We can — and must — continue to do the hard work together to maintain industrial peace, with all the benefits that brings to our public servants, our economy and our society.

And we must also collectively continue to try to balance competing priorities with an awareness of their implications elsewhere.

Those who seek to prioritise their own narrow agenda over a wider settlement are shirking this broader responsibility toward fairness and balance. These same people will criticise any agreement as a ‘sell-out’, rather than recognising that one can be pragmatic and remain principled. We simply cannot afford to listen to such people.

Before we begin negotiations, we await the report of the Public Service Pay Commission.

This report, due soon, will provide a key input to the talks process by providing evidence-based objective analysis on a number of key issues, including how the unwinding of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest — or FEMPI — legislation should proceed, as well as for example, the issue of the value attached to public service pensions.

The process of moving to a post-FEMPI world commenced under the Lansdowne Road Agreement and will be further advanced under any new agreement.

This is an important development because it signals a normalisation in our approach to both pay and industrial relations in the public service and is an indicator in itself of our re-emergence as a normal functioning economy.

For me, the priorities are simple — we need an agreement that is affordable, sustainable and fair.

However, the very real fiscal limitations we face, coupled with the many competing demands, including on pay as I’ve outlined, when set against the expectation levels that are prevailing, make these forthcoming negotiations arguably one of the most challenging.

CONCLUSION

It will not be easy to secure an agreement in such circumstances. I recognise that. I do not underestimate the challenge.

But let me conclude by saying that the Government is clear that it wants to reach an agreement and will put its best foot forward in an attempt to do so.

Pragmatism, realism and compromise will certainly be required on all sides.

If our experience with Croke Park, Haddington Road and Lansdowne Road is anything to go by though, I know there will be no shortage of these qualities on offer over the coming weeks and that should give us the confidence to collectively succeed in achieving a mutually acceptable outcome.

SIPTU to ballot support staff for strike action in selected hospitals from Monday

SIPTU Health representatives will begin a ballot of support staff for strike action in selected hospitals on Monday, 23rd January, in a dispute concerning breaches of the national public service agreements and their exclusion from concessions provided to other emergency department workers. 

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “Our members are fully committed to winning fair and equal treatment in the workplace. The failure of the HSE and Department of Health to resolve our concerns has put our members in an intolerable and inequitable situation.

“These issues include a failure by management to adhere to the fully binding provisions of the Lansdowne Road Agreement and Haddington Road Agreement. The most crucial elements that have not been adhered to include the reintroduction of a job evaluation scheme and the application of incremental credit to interns.

“The other central issue in this dispute involves the granting of concessions by the HSE and the Department of Health to nurses working in emergency departments which have not been extended to other workers.”

He added: “After 15 months of engagement with management on the issues in dispute, our members believe enough is enough and they have been left with no option but to take action if they are to achieve justice from the employer.

“The balloting process will commence on the 23rd January with the result scheduled to be announced on Monday, 13th February. This means there is still enough time for the HSE and Department of Health to address all the outstanding issues of concern for our members.”

23/12/2016 Comments are off SIPTU
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Open Recruitment Event for Nurses and Midwives

We in SIPTU Health are encouraging all Nursing Professionals returning home from abroad for Christmas holidays to consider retuning to their communities to serve in our national health service.

There is an open recruitment event for nurses and midwives from all disciplines who are interested in working in the Irish Public Health Services.

Where: Dr Steevens’ Hospital Dublin 8
When: 28th – 30th December 2016 – 10am to 4pm

The event will provide an opportunity for nurses and midwives to obtain information and guidance on the range of exciting employment opportunities that are available across our health services. Attendees can apply and interview for jobs on the day and get information on Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) Registration and garda vetting requirements. This will be the first in a series of career day events for nurses throughout 2017.
To register your interest in attending, please email your CV and details of when you can attend over the 3-days to: Caroline.Smith@hse.ie
(If you cannot attend on the above dates, but are interested in future nursing career events, please contact the above email address and  Caroline will contact you with event details)

SIPTU members suspend industrial action in Galway social care work dispute

SIPTU members working as social care workers and social care leaders in the Brothers of Charity and Ability West services, county Galway, have suspended a campaign of industrial action which began earlier this month.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “The industrial action has been suspended until a ballot on a proposal from the employer is completed. The union has received confirmation from the HSE that the Department of Health has allocated funds to cover the monies owed to these workers as compensation for their employers failure to honour so-called ‘twilight payment’ rates.

“The level of compensation to be made available to the workers will be in line with a Labour Relations Commission (LRC) proposal on this matter.

“The Department of Health has also made funds available to cover the liabilities for Brothers of Charity social care workers, care assistants and leaders employed in Roscommon, Cork, Limerick, Clare and Waterford where premium pay arrears are also outstanding.”

He added: “During October, SIPTU members will attend information meetings to discuss the employer’s proposal.

Following these meetings, members will have the opportunity to vote in a secret ballot to accept or reject the offer.

“The workers involved in this dispute are committed staff providing a vital service to people with intellectual disabilities.

They felt they had been left with no option but to undertake industrial action due to their employer’s failure to honour a LRC proposal on compensation.

This dispute has been difficult for the workers. It has also been difficult and stressful for the families of service users and clients.

However, SIPTU members ensured that their vulnerable clients were not adversely affected during the industrial action.”

SIPTU calls on Minister to honour LRC proposal in Galway health workers dispute over unpaid wages

SIPTU members working as social care workers and social care leaders in County Galway have called on the Minister of Health, Leo Varadkar, to honour a Labour Relations Commission (LRC) proposal in a dispute concerning the payment of monies owed to them for evening work.

SIPTU Organiser, Mark Lohan, said: “Social care workers and social care leaders elsewhere in the country have always been paid increased rates of pay for work between 8.00 p.m. and midnight.

However, social care workers and social care leaders working for Ability West and the Brothers of Charity Services in Galway have not received monies that the Labour Court ruled were owed to them as compensation for these organisations failure to honour so-called ‘twilight payment’ rates.”

He added: “Following discussions at the LRC during July, an agreement was reached on a plan to resolve the issue of the monies owed for unpaid ‘twilight payments’ to our members in the Galway area.

The HSE and Department of Health have not signed off on the LRC proposal, preventing SIPTU from presenting it to our members for ratification.

“Due to the position taken by the HSE and Department of Health our members were regrettably left with no option but to commence industrial action.

“The workers are now calling on the Minister of Health, Leo Varadkar, to personally intervene so they are not forced to escalate their industrial action.

These workers want this dispute resolved as quickly as possible so they can maintain their full focus on their main priority which is providing the best standard of care possible for their clients.”

Public Service negotiations commence

SIPTU representatives are about to enter discussions with public service employers for the restoration of pay for union members who have suffered severe reductions in income over the past number of years.

SIPTU will also seek the alleviation of the Pension Levy imposed on all members in the public service during this time.

Other issues, including the ending of the moratorium on recruitment and the consequent out-sourcing of many public service jobs, will also feature in these discussions.

In addition, there are a number of sectoral matters involving our members in health, education, local authorities and state related bodies which need to be addressed to our satisfaction.

The negotiations will commence at 2.30 p.m. today (Tuesday 19th May) at Lansdowne House, Dublin 4, under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission and are expected to continue for some weeks.

To see Paul Bell outline SIPTU position on pay talks please log in to SIPTUhealth Plus

SIPTU members call for pay restoration at rally outside Department of Health

SIPTU Health Division members called on the Government to honour its commitment to restore their pay in line with national agreements at a rally today (Thursday, 30th April) outside the Department of Health, Dublin 2.

At the rally, frontline health workers and support staff heard speeches stating that because workers had fulfilled their commitments under the Haddington Road Agreement it was now time for the Government to meet its obligation to resort their pay.

Addressing the rally, SIPTU General President, Jack O’Connor, called for the restoration workers’ pay and dismissed what he described as “myths about the public sector”.

“One myth,” he said, “is that there is some kind of conflict between the people who work in the public service and the interests of the citizens who utilise them.

“There is no conflict, we all share an interest in winning the battle for a good public services, for a good public health service.”

Roisin Quinn, a health care assistant and SIPTU activist, said: “SIPTU is in a battle now to make our jobs more sustainable that will support the long term interest of the people we care about and care for.”

Concluding the rally, SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, called for the Government to live up to its commitments by initially restoring the earnings of lower paid workers.

He said: “Looking to the future we believe that the Government working with SIPTU have an opportunity to commence a journey which will see the closing of the gap between low to middle income earners and those at the top.

“This position is not just about pay and economics its about our society going forward.”

Low paid workers must be focus of pay talks

Pay talks for health workers must focus on the low paid and cannot be linked to demands for further improvements in productivity was the message from the ‘Ending the Emergency – SIPTU Health Division Conference’, held in the Mansion House Dublin on Thursday, 23rd April.

Addressing delegates at the conference SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “Looking to the future we believe that the Government working with SIPTU have an opportunity to commence a journey which will see the closing of the gap between low to middle income earners and those at the top.

“This position is not just about pay and economics its about our society going forward.”

Bell was responding to an earlier address by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, in which he stated that talks between public sector unions and the Government, which are expected to begin in May, “in the first instance will concentrate on ensuring the lower paid public servant benefits proportionately better.”

In her presentation to the conference SIPTU national Campaigns and Equality Organiser, Ethel Buckley, outlined the union’s plans for SIPTUhealth.ie and the progress that has been made on the site so far.

SIPTUhealth.ie was launched in October 2014 in response to members demand for their own dedicated communications platform. In only seven months we have had 89,000 visits to the website. We put out a 100-day user survey recently to members to get their feedback on what we can do to improve the content and layout of the site. Members feedback is being actioned and we are very encouraged by their contribution.”

She also said that members would be kept informed of development during the upcoming talks process with the government through a phone bank system, which was currently being developed as part of the union’s campaign in support of the marriage equality referendum on Twitter and SIPTU Health Plus.

Other issues that were focused upon at the conference were ensuring, that the 1,300 health workers in support services on Intern contracts are made permanent.

There were also calls for the practice of issuing zero hours contracts for those working in community sector home care services to be ended along with the outsourcing of support service positions to for profit private companies.

Among the other speakers at the conference were Orlagh Fawl of the SIPTU Strategic Organising Department, Dr. Thomas Stephen, a health policy expert based at Trinity College Dublin and Dr. Micheál Collins of the Nevin Economic Research Institute.

For videos of the conference click on the text below.