A case of old wine in new bottles aboard Ship Leo

The election of Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach and his appointment of three new ministers to the Cabinet is a case of old wine served in new bottles. It will not change the thrust of Fine Gael policies on the economy or the way in which it treats working people when it comes to income inequality the increasing trend towards precarious and low paid work or the inadequate provision of public services.

The appalling housing crisis leaving almost 100,000 thousand people on local authority waiting lists and the two tier health service which has over 400,000 awaiting hospital treatment will not be improved by the shifting ofdeck chairss on board Ship Leo.

It is likely that a general election will take place next year when Fianna Fáil decides that it has a chance to be returned as the largest party but, for now, it will happily hold its position as main opposition party while exercising its influence over Government action.

In the meantime, the spectre of Brexit looms over the future of hundreds of thousands of workers across the island while the volatile behaviour of US president Donal Trump further threatens global economic and political instability.

The performance of Jeremy Corbyn and a resurgent Labour Party in Britain and the defeat of Le Pen in France have been welcome developments in recent weeks and perhaps just might concentrate the minds of progressive people and parties about the possibilities of a left alternative to the traditional dominance of two right wing parties in this state.

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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.”

Health Minister addresses SIPTU conference for health care assistants

SIPTU has launched a new Health Care Sector at a conference in Dublin which was addressed by the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar today.

Sector Organiser Marie Butler said that the new sector for health care assistants has been set up in response to the growing demand for representation for this group of ‘hands on’ health workers. She also set out a list of proposals that would lead to the professionalisation of the ‘Health Care Assistant’ across the Irish health service.

“We recognise that Health Care Assistants in hospital, care and community settings are crucial to the future delivery of health services in Ireland and we welcome the Minister’s keen interest in this area. Today moves our members one step closer on our journey towards full recognition as a group of health professionals.”

Speaking at the conference, Mr Varadkar said the role of health care assistant has become increasingly important, as nursing and midwifery has become more specialised.

“Health care assistants play an important role in delivering the highest standard of care, under the direction and supervision of Nursing and Midwifery staff.  This has helped to improve services to patients, and has allowed us to better utilise the skills of nurses and midwives.”

 SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Paul Bell, said that the Minister has been very receptive towards the future role of the health care assistants.

“In order for Health Care Assistants to be a position to respond to the future demands it will be necessary to first of all professionalise these front line health workers. These workers are the only group to provide ‘hands on’ patient care who not to be registered by a regulatory body.

It will also be necessary for Government to commit to on-going training and education of health care assistants and those who wish to seek careers in this area of health provision. These considerations are already subject to two separate European studies, including on by the European Commission.”

Ann Marie Tibby, SIPTU Shop Steward and Chairperson of the Health Care Assistant Committee said without SIPTU empowering health care assistants over the last ten years this day would not have been possible.

“It has been a long journey to get this far. SIPTU had the vision to invest in education and training for health care assistants and now we are confident to take on the next challenge of winning recognition for the vital role we provide in our hospitals and communities.”

SIPTU calls for urgent response to waiting list crisis

SIPTU has warned that the only long term solution to the ongoing hospital overcrowding and outpatient waiting list crisis is major Government investment in the recruitment of more front line health care workers.

Responding to the speech by the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar at the Fine Gael conference today, SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “Providing 500 additional nursing posts is a positive move by the Minister and a vindication of the SIPTU campaign to lift the public service recruitment embargo but it is only a small step on the road to fully reversing the devastating impact funding cuts, reduced staffing levels and bed closures has had across our health service.”

SIPTU member and health care assistant, Pamela Staunton, said that she and her colleagues have struggled, since the recruitment embargo was introduced, to maintain the standards expected by patients and their families.

“We have been doing more for less for years now”, she said, “It’s good that we may be able to have some extra nurses on the wards but there are 10,000 less staff in the health service now than prior to the introduction of the embargo so 500 extra staff is only a drop in the ocean.  If the Government wants to deliver a better quality of care for patients and jobs for communities it must invest across the entire front line of the health service.”

Stephen Quinn, a health care intern and SIPTU activist, said he supported the Minister’s sentiment in encouraging health care workers who emigrated to return to work in Ireland. However, he added: “Health care interns working throughout the health service have paid their dues and should be recognised, rewarded and regularised into permanent direct employment.

“We were taken on initially to plug the gaps in the health service and now that the Minister has given us some hope with his commitment to recruit again, we believe our work should be rewarded.”

Paul Bell added: “SIPTU insists that the minister secures the necessary funds to provide our health service with more front line health care staff. He must also spend taxpayers money sensibly on direct public service employment rather than propping up private for profit agencies that cannot possibly provide the continuity of care that patients or communities need or deserve

SIPTU supports move to ensure Home Helps have at least 30 minutes with clients

SIPTU supports a decision of the Emergency Department Taskforce to ensure Home Helps have a minimum of 30 minutes with each client in which essential care can be provided.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “The SIPTU Home Helps campaign for additional hours and the full utilisation of their existing contracted hours has succeded in securing this key improvement for clients.

“This move will allow hospitals to successfully discharge more patients, assured that they will be provided with a proper standard of care in the community. If this decision had been made prior to Christmas it would have reduced the impact of overcrowding in our hospital network.”

Paul Bell also called for further action to end the practice by some private nursing home operators of  “cherry-picking” patients for accommodation and requesting additional fees for admission.

He said: “This issue has developed due to successive governments failing to invest in public nursing home faculties. This has allowed private sector providers to gain a monopoly position which some are now abusing by selecting patients and levying addition charges.”

The decision to allow Home Helps a minimum of 30 minutes with patients was made at a meeting of the Emergency Department Taskforce in Dr. Steeven’s Hospital, Dublin, this afternoon (2nd February).

The taskforce comprises relevant stakeholders including senior doctors, lead hospital consultants, HSE National Directors, union representatives and senior officials from the HSE Acute Hospitals Directorate and the Department of Health.

Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, convened the Taskforce on 22nd December 2014, to find long-term solutions to the issue of hospital overcrowding.