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 meets with Minister for Health to discuss future of National Ambulance Service

SIPTU representatives met with the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, today (Wednesday, 28th September) to discuss the implementation of the recommendations of the National Ambulance Service (NAS) Capacity Review which includes the employment of 600 new staff.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “The meeting was constructive and we are optimistic that progress can be made to secure the long term future of the NAS. In a recent ballot, our members overwhelmingly backed the implementation of the recommendations of the Capacity Review and a number of other proposals which emerged from negotiations at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

“Our delegation also took the opportunity to outline our concerns on pay restoration, pay progression and pay justice. The Minister recognised pay justice as an issue which could be dealt with in an agreement to succeed the Lansdowne Road Agreement.”

He added: “We also raised the urgent need for a job evaluation mechanism for ambulance professionals. The Minister responded positively to our position and we look forward to having further dialogue on this and related matters in the near future.”

Irish Ambulance Representative Council (IARC) chairman, Peter Ray, said: “The Minister recognises the evolving and pivotal role that the NAS plays in the overall public health service. We expressed to the Minister our intention to deliver a service that is fully funded and fit for purpose, as outlined in the capacity review and the recent WRC facilitated agreement between the HSE, the Department of Health and SIPTU. This agreement averted a national all out strike by our members.

“Adequate funds for the implementation of the capacity review’s recommendations in full is essential if the NAS is to deliver the standard of service that the public expect and deserve. It is to be hoped that the Minister will maintain a strong focus on the ambulance service into the future in respect of staffing, funding, capital investment, career development and training.”

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.”

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