Health conference highlights vitality of our union

The message was clear from more than 200 delegates who attended the recent SIPTU Health Division Biennial Delegate Conference in Liberty Hall – our union has weathered the economic storm and is now set on the path of reclaiming the ground lost by workers in recent years.

A resolute determination was evident in union leaders’ addresses and contributions from members, as the conference examined the work done over the last two years and decided on the Division’s future agenda. Delegates discussed the organising campaigns that have successfully brought together Health Care Assistants and workers in the Intellectual Disability Sector to fight for better conditions through their union.

Clear demands for speedy pay restoration and increased funding of the public health service solidified around the conference’s slogan of a ‘New Deal for Health’. 

However, there was also a focus on the union’s wider social justice mandate with a voluntary worker at a Calais refugee campaign delivering a heart-rending account of conditions there. This ensured that a motion calling on the union to intervene both nationally and internationally to assist the plight of refugees was passed unanimously.

Our members in the health service have set a high standard for enthusiasm and determination which, no doubt, will be maintained by the other divisions of the union as the conference season progresses. 

SIPTU criticise Department of Health for promoting two tier minimum wage

SIPTU has criticised the Department of Health for attempting to undermine the proper application of the statutory minimum wage system for care workers in the residential care sector.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “If media reports today (Wednesday, 19th October) are correct, the Department of Health seems to believe the existing minimum wage rate of €9.15 per hour (€9.25 per hour from 1st January 2017) should be reduced for 4000 health workers performing ‘sleepover’ duties while caring for vulnerable citizens in community settings.

“It is unacceptable that the Department of Health is promoting and actively advancing the case for a two-tier minimum wage for workers in our health service which it deems to be ‘inactive’ during the night period of their duty. It is very disappointing that the Department of Health would promote such a move which, if accepted, could serve as a means to undermine the application of the minimum wage in the wider economy.”

He added: “Over the last number of years, our members fought a determined campaign to ensure people working in residential units where ‘sleepover’ duties are an integral part of their work, were paid appropriately for the vital service they provide. It has taken a European Court of Justice ruling and a Labour Court recommendation to convince the Health Service Executive and Government of its obligation to implement the European Working Time Directive for this essential work. This ensured workers were to be paid the minimum wage rather than a nominal allowance of €30 for a 10-hour night period which they had previously received.”

“We are calling on the Minster for Health, Simon Harris, to clarify the terms of the advice on this issue which he received from the Department. He must also state what he intends to do in order to reduce the number of ‘sleepover’ hours which health workers are forced to work.”

SIPTU demands automatic extensions of service for retirement age health workers

SIPTU Health representatives have demanded that the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, sanction automatic extensions of service to all low paid health workers who require them, in order to prevent those over 65 being forced into financial hardship or onto exploitive contracts.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell said: “Many low paid workers are being forced to retire at 65 without the cushion of the state transitional pension. Over the last few months, SIPTU representatives have presented solutions to the Health Service Executive (HSE) that could prevent our members, who are compelled to retire at 65, from experiencing financial hardship as they await becoming eligible for their state pension.

“Our members, who are mainly low paid, have also been exposed to hardship by being denied their occupational pension from the day they retire from work. This specific issue was investigated by the Ombudsman for Pensions following a request from SIPTU members. The Ombudsman found that some state funded employers have a serious case to answer.”

Bell added: “What we have learned from our members making applications for one year extensions of service is the behaviour of some Section 38 Health Service employers is extremely exploitive and unacceptable. In some cases, low paid workers who are desperate to remain on payroll are being forced to sign a new contract which involves losing salary and conditions.

“In many cases low paid health service workers are being forced to accept lower basic pay and unsocial hours. This clear exploitation of workers must cease and the Government has a duty to ensure that it does.”

SIPTU meets Minister for Health to discuss role of Radiographers and Radiation Therapists

SIPTU representatives today (Thursday, 26th May) met with the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, to discuss the potential to develop the role of Radiation Therapists and Radiographers in the health service.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “At the meeting we presented the Minister with our members’ vision for the positive development of the role of Radiation Therapists and Radiographers. Advances in technology, education qualifications and state registration present an opportunity for the transformation of the manner in which scans and treatment are prescribed, performed and reported on.”

SIPTU Radiographers and Radiation Therapists National Executive President, Michele Monahan described the meeting as “positive”.

She said: “Our members believe an advancement of their role will ensure that the best use of diagnostic services is secured to the benefit of patients. We look forward to future engagement with the Minister’s office to further expand on proposals for role expansion in the health service which are included in the Programme for Government.”

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell said: “We informed the Minister that we are seeking to deliver sustainable solutions to the challenges health workers face every day within our health service.

“SIPTU has 45,000 members within the Nursing and Midwifery, Allied Health Professionals, National Ambulance Service and Support Grades in the health service. Our members look forward to developing a constructive working relationship with the Minister and his Department.”

Read a copy of the submission here

To download a workplace poster for our CPD day on the 11th of June click here

SIPTU calls for employment of more Health Care Assistants to alleviate hospital crisis

SIPTU has called for an increase in the number of Health Care Assistants to help alleviate the worsening staff shortages and overcrowding crises in hospitals across the country.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “SIPTU has repeatedly called for the immediate deployment of Health Care Assistants to alleviate the pressure on nursing staff in hospitals. We have also called for the introduction of Theatre Assistants to assist hospital surgeons with routine surgical procedures. These measures could have a very positive impact on hospital waiting times and patient care.

“To this end, SIPTU has requested that the HSE create 800 new Health Care Assistant positions. Such a move would reduce the staff to patient ratio in our hospitals and the exorbitant costs of hiring temporary agency staff, which is running in excess of €27 million for this year alone.”

He added: “It seemed as if progress had been made on this issue in recent weeks with both the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Department of Health expressing a desire to alleviate the staff shortage crisis by seeking a ‘skill mix solution’. This would result in an increased number of Health Care Assistants to support other grades of health staff. A SIPTU delegation also attended a HSE briefing on the introduction of Theatre Assistants, a new grade of health worker, earlier this year.

“However, our members are amazed that health service management has yet to engage with the union representing these vital health workers on either of these issues. The Minister for Health, Leo Vardakar, and HSE officials need to immediately commence a dialogue on increasing the number and roles of Health Care Assistants with the union which represents these workers. Our members have a clear message and that is stop talking about us and start talking to us”. Bell concluded.

Public Service Committee of ICTU vote to approve Lansdowne Road Agreement

The Public Services Committee (PSC) of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has voted to approve the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

The deal was approved by an aggregate ballot of the PSC at a meeting on Wednesday 16th September 2015

The Lansdowne Road Agreement extends the main provisions of the Haddington Road Agreement until September 2018, and restores around €2,000 to the pay of most public servants in three phases between January 2016 and September 2017. The pay restoration will be achieved through a combination of adjustments to the public service pension levy and a partial reversal of the 2010 public service pay cuts.

Speaking to Divisional Organiser Paul Bell said: “One of the main reasons SIPTU enjoyed a successful campaign and ballot supporting the Lansdowne Road Agreement is that our members had the opportunity to frame our agenda. Our members demanded job security and pay recovery. We have achieved those objectives and now move forward stronger and better together.

Throughout our consultation meetings around the country we made it clear the Lansdowne Road Agreement is the first step on the journey to repair the damage inflicted on our public health service and workers since the crash. Our members now have protection from outsourcing, a modest increase in their take home pay, our intern members working in the health service the opportunity of a permanent job and our nurses and midwives a freeze in professional fees.”

Bell said that the next step for SIPTU Health is to continue the conversation with shop stewards to organise the membership in demanding a fully resourced public health service that the Irish people deserve and can be proud of.

Individual unions balloted their members on the terms of the agreement through the summer months. The agreement was endorsed by members of the Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation (INMO), SIPTU, the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO), MLSA, TEEU and IMPACT. In recent days the Civil and Public Services Union (CPSU) and the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) also voted to approve the deal.

Shay Cody, General Secretary of IMPACT and chair of the PSC, said that the Lansdowne Road Agreement marked a significant step forward for workers after seven years of pay cuts, and reflected a growing trend for wage improvements across many sectors of the economy since 2014.

“Workers in the public and private sectors have faced huge challenges during the economic crisis. Pay improvements across all sectors are a crucial element of the country’s continuing economic recovery. More money in workers’ hands will largely be spent in the local economy, improving living standards and, most importantly, contributing to the job growth which has now developed,” he said.

To watch Paul Bell, Divisional Organiser speak on the Lansdowne Road Agreement click here

SIPTU members vote in favour of Lansdowne Road public service proposals

SIPTU members working in the public service have overwhelmingly accepted the Lansdowne Road proposals.

Members supported the proposals with 78.5% of votes cast in favour and 21.5% against.

SIPTU Vice-President, Gene Mealy, said: “The result is comprehensive and the clear feedback that was received from meetings to discuss the ballot across the country was that members see this agreement as progress.

However, it is also clear that there is still a long way to go in terms of the restoration and improvement of pay and conditions in the public service.”

SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser Paul Bell said: “We are pleased SIPTU has delivered a positive result for our members. We ran an active and visible campaign for the agreement. Our team of volunteers and activists spoke to thousands of members by phone and in workplaces encourage them to use their vote.

We also organised hundreds of new members into the union.”

Bell said the final result meant SIPTU can now move forward with confidence to the bigger challenges facing the public health service with the support of the majority of trade union members and activists.

“Every SIPTU Health member started this journey together on our Better Health Care, Better Jobs campaign platform. We intend on finishing the journey together and regaining the ground we lost step by step. This agreement will protect our members working in decent jobs in our public health service and get our members back on the road to real pay recovery.

SIPTU member, health worker and phone bank volunteer Beth Cunningham said: “We were never going to take this vote for granted. Every vote counts and every members voice matters. We contacted members around the country especially home care workers that live and work in isolated areas and encouraged them to vote.

We are very happy to have so much support from all SIPTU members working in the health service and our public services.

An increase in our pay, a commitment on protecting workers from outsourcing and the regularisation of interns will make a real difference in the lives of health workers,” she said.

The Lansdowne Road Proposals – Ballot Update

We are now half way through our national ballot on the Lansdowne Road Proposals.Turnout so far has been brisk and engagement with members encouraging.

Over the last number of weeks the SIPTU Health Division has held information meetings with members around the country. At these meetings any questions from members and shop stewards were answered.

View SIPTU shop stewards discussing the Landsdowne Road Proposals here

At members request we have complied a frequently asked questions document.

Members should understand that it is very important to secure a YES vote in order to begin the journey towards pay restoration and to make our members more secure in their employment.

Speaking to Divisional Organiser Paul Bell said: “I am asking all members that have not yet cast their ballot to please contact their local organiser to find out when their next ballot is taking place and to use their vote.”

Alternatively, an office ballot will take place on the 4th floor, Health Division Office, Liberty Hall, Dublin 1 on the following dates:

Friday, 10th July 2015 – 10.00 a.m. – 1.00 p.m

Friday, 17th July 2015 – 2.00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m

To download a poster outlining the reasons why SIPTU members should vote yes to the Lansdowne Road Proposals click here

If you would like a postal vote please click here

Members Update: Lansdowne Road Proposals

The balloting of SIPTU Health members on the Lansdowne Road proposals is underway and information meetings are taking place around the country.

Speaking to Divisional Organiser Paul Bell said: “After consulting our members we took the decision to host information meetings around the country to help our Shop Stewards campaign for a YES vote on the Lansdowne Road proposals. We also did this to ensure every member uses their vote before the July 22nd,

It is very important that our members have the opportunity to fully inform themselves about the agreement before they cast their vote.”

So far, we have taken the conversation to Tipperary, Cork, Kilkenny, Limerick and Donegal. Our Shop Stewards have been very constructive and engaged throughout our Better Health Care, Better Jobs campaign and they have taken that commitment, passion and enthusiasm to our meetings.

What is very clear is our members know the proposals another step in the journey to recover what was taken from them during the economic crisis.That is the message our members are carrying loud and clear into workplaces across the country and that the recruitment of non-union members of the health service into the union is very important for any future negotiations.

SIPTU Shop Steward, Jane Reynolds told she is hopeful the proposals will be well received by members she represents in her workplace.

“My view is this is a stepping stone towards better pay restoration. Our short term goal must be to get this modest increase back into the pockets of our members over the next two years.

Our SIPTU representatives can then go back to the negotiation table and hopefully get another increase in take home pay for members in the health service.”

SIPTU Health will be hosting meetings in Sligo, Tralee, Wexford next week.

Lansdowne Road Proposals

Vote YES For Pay Recovery and Job Security

The Lansdowne Road Proposals, which you are now being asked to consider, arose from the determined efforts of SIPTU members to secure the restoration of their pay and commitments on job security from employers.

We will be holding information meetings around the country so please get in touch with your local organiser or shop steward if you wish to attend or email to get more details.

Video: Click here to see Divisional Organiser Paul Bell discuss the outcome of the talks.

Download Lansdowne Road documents and leaflets 

  • Click here to download all of the information on Support Grades
  • Click here to download all of the information on Nurses and Midwives
  • Click here to download all of the information on Allied Health Professionals
  • Click here to download all of the information on Interns
  • Click here to download all of the information on Home Helps

Click here to download or view Lansdowne Road Proposals document.

Click here for a full list of pay restoration for health workers.

Click here to order a postal ballot paper.

Click here to get a breakdown of the pension levy adjustments.

FAQs and Irish language text

A comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions document is also available for members and will be updated with answers to the most frequent questions raised at information meetings from around the country. 

An Irish language text of the Lansdowne Road agreement is now also available here