Campaign Update – Valuing Care Valuing Community

Dear Member,

We write to you with an important update regarding the Valuing Care Valuing Community Campaign.

The story so far:
Members will be aware of the history regarding the campaign for pay justice in the Section 39, Community and Voluntary sectors.

Most recently, in July of last year workers in a number of community organisations engaged in strike action in pursuit of decent pay within their sector. This was followed by further action in September 2022 in which thirteen Section 39 agencies and community organisations took part in a day of strike action in pursuit of pay justice.

The actions were deemed to be a success. A number of high-profile public representatives publicly endorsed the campaign and called for a mechanism for addressing pay within the sector. In October, there was support across the Dáil for a Labour Party motion which called for support for the Valuing Care, Valuing Community Campaign. At the time Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, and Minister of State at the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Anne Rabbitte spoke in support of a process, under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission, to address the long-standing pay issue within these organisations.

SIPTU supported the call for the use of the WRC and referred the matter for conciliation in October 2022. The Union maintained pressure on all parties to attend the WRC and honour the government’s commitment to resolve this long standing pay dispute through talks. The Union confirmed to employers our members’ willingness to take further action in progression of their claim, if necessary.

Campaign Update:
There was initial resistance by relevant government agencies and departments to attend. However, only this week it was confirmed by the HSE that it would attend talks, bringing us one step closer to resolving the dispute. The Department of Social Protection has confirmed its availability to attend the WRC and an engagement is scheduled for next week.

It is important to note that the relevant parties only agreed to attend the WRC when they realised that our members, with the support of their Union, SIPTU, would accept nothing less than their fight for pay justice to be treated as anything other than a priority.

We understand that a date for talks will be issued shortly and we will endeavour to keep our members updated with regards to any developments on the campaign.

SIPTU will revert to its members in Section 39, Community and Voluntary organisations on possible next steps, if sufficient and timely progress is not made on this claim.

It is important that you speak to your colleagues about the value of being in the Union and join SIPTU as we progress the matter of pay justice in your sector.

In solidarity,

Kevin Figgis
Divisional Organiser
Health Division

Adrian Kane
Divisional Organiser
PAC Division

SIPTU calls on Minister to end pandemic payment delay for non-HSE and Section 38 workers

SIPTU representatives have called for the intervention of the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, to ensure that eligible health workers employed in private employments and Section 39 organisations receive their Pandemic Special Recognition Payment (PSRP) without further delay.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Pat Flannery, said: “Our members are aware that a limited number of Section 39 agencies have made these payments to their eligible workforce but many have not. It has been reported that more than half of eligible workers who do not fall under the remit of the HSE or Section 38 agencies have yet to receive their payment.

“Agencies that do not fall under the remit of the HSE or Section 38 of the Health Acts received guidance from KOSI Corporation, which has been commissioned by the Government to oversee the process, in November 2022, advising them of the eligibility criteria for the PSRP. The guidance also set out how these organisations could submit a claim for the funding in order to make the payment to their workers.

“The KOSI guidance explained that it was intended that funds would be made available to these organisations to pay the PSRP by the end of November 2022, as long they submitted accurate claim forms by 11th November of that month.

“These workers put their shoulder to the wheel and provided essential care during the darkest days of the pandemic. The services they provided included care to the vulnerable in the intellectual disability sector, care to our elderly in communities around the country and nursing home care.”

He added: “The fact that these workers have been kept waiting for payment of PSRP is unacceptable. We are calling for the Minister of Health to intervene and make sure that funds are released to make these payments. Workers in these essential services cannot be expected to wait any longer. The PSRP was announced by the Government in January 2022. Surely it is time for all the workers eligible for this payment to receive it as some form of recognition for the work they did to protect our society and communities at great personal risk.”

SIPTU to meet with HSE to discuss difficulties faced by the acute sector

SIPTU and ICTU Health unions are to meet the HSE later this week to discuss the upsurge in activity faced by the acute sector. It follows a a meeting which took place on December 30th to discuss the situation.

At that meeting, management advised of the following:

• Different issues and pressures are presenting on sites across the country.
• The current challenge is not only prevalent to emergency departments and is being experienced across all areas of the acute system.
• There is significant absence of healthcare workers being recorded due to illness.
• The current level of activity within the acute system has not been experienced since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020.
• The level of flu symptoms presenting have not spiked and are continuing to climb. This is causing a significant level of concern.
• The meeting was told members of the National Crisis Management Team (NCMT) are visiting all acute sites across the country. This is an ongoing situation.
• NCMT is engaging with all sites and advising them to use whatever means are deemed necessary to address the upsurge.
• Solutions are being identified locally as they will be different depending on the challenges arising.
• Management stated they have been planning for winter 2022/2023 for a considerable period but the current patterns are presenting a sudden surge with no ending in sight.
• Discharges are being prioritised.
• This is an exceptional influenza season. Due to post covid, flu was very low in the last two years. The season normally peaks at week 4. This is now week 7 and is still climbing.
• Cases of RSV (in children of 5 years and younger) appear to be falling.
• No new COVID variant has been identified.

In response, SIPTU requested the following:

1) A composite document from the HSE which outlines all the challenges presenting across the country, the local solutions identified to address them and confirmation they will be supported with necessary funding. The HSE stated they would seek to have a document prepared for the unions and this would be shared at the next meeting.
2) Confirmation from the HSE of what protections and supports they will put in place for healthcare workers themselves who are striving to provide care to their patients in this extremely difficult period. The HSE stated this would be considered and they would seek to respond next week.
3) Clarification regarding the use of additional capacity within private hospitals. We were advised additional capacity within private hospitals has been secured across the country. Th Union understands this includes additional capacity within the private hospitals we organise within. The meeting was advised the specific use of additional capacity within private hospitals will depend on what is available and the local needs arising. The exact arrangements will be agreed at local level.
4) Clarification if additional capacity is being utilised by the National Ambulance Service (NAS). The meeting was advised NAS already has arrangements for the use of private or voluntary ambulance services. SIPTU requested specific information relating to what additional capacity is currently being used by the NAS to address the upsurge in activity. The Union was advised this would be sought from the NAS and presented at a further meeting.
5) Management stated additional capacity within diagnostics is a central element of the plan to address the current challenge arising. SIPTU requested clarification of what specific provisions are being made available for additional diagnostics capacity.

SIPTU will endeavour to keep members updated on the outcome of the next meeting.

INMO and SIPTU prepare for industrial action over Clifden District Hospital Failures

Members of SIPTU and INMO are preparing to ballot for industrial action due to the failure of the HSE in St. Anne’s CNU and Clifden District Hospital, Clifden, Co. Galway to engage with the trade unions under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission, following the unilateral imposition of rosters and failure to be transparent in the future of Clifden District Hospital.

Conciliation talks under the auspices of the WRC failed to progress due to management’s refusal to comply with the provisions of the Public Service Agreement as it pertains to roster changes and service reconfiguration of the service delivered from Clifden District Hospital.
It is the belief of our members that management have orchestrated a situation whereby there is critical shortage of nurses leading to an inability to maintain services on both sites. The blatant lack of workforce planning has resulted in this situation occurring.

Management proceeded to unilaterally impose rosters and have failed to provide any cogent information regarding the future of Clifden District Hospital.

Staff and the community are very concerned regarding the future of Clifden District Hospital.

SIPTU Deputy General Secretary says public sector funding faces 5% cut by 2025

Funding for the public sector faces a 5% cut in real terms by 2025, which will result in a decline in services, SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, John King, told the SIPTU Health Division Biennial Delegate Conference in Waterford today (Wednesday, 26th October).

Addressing more than 200 delegates, King said: “The figures would indicate that nominal expenditure on public services will increase by 6% between 2022 to 2025. However, when inflation is factored in, spending falls by 3%, and when population growth is also factored in, spending actually falls by 5%.
“These outcomes are about the implementation of political choices. The effect is not good for public servants and it is not good for wider society. They will lead to poorer services for the less well-off and the marginalised in key areas of public service provision.”

King added: “When we compare Budget 2023 spending on public services to our European Union peer group we find another key result, that is that Ireland is at the bottom of the table when it comes to public service spending. We need to significantly increase our public spending to achieve the quality of service which the citizens in our EU peer group enjoys.”

King also highlighted the failure of the Government to adequately fund organisations that provide services on behalf of the HSE but are not formally part of the public sector.

He said: “The denial of funding for these community and Section 39 organisations for pay increases for their staff, who provide essential public services to our most vulnerable and marginalised citizens and communities, will have profound negative consequences for our society.”

He added: “Last week in the Dáil, in response to a motion submitted by the Labour Party, two senior government Ministers acknowledged that these workers not having a pay rise for 14 years is not acceptable, particularly in light of the cost-of-living crisis that all workers are suffering.

“These workers must not be left out of the ‘whole of government’ response to this inflationary crisis, and I am calling on those Ministers to act now on their words and put in the necessary process to address this issue once and for all.”

The SIPTU Health Division Biennial Delegate Conference in the Tower Hotel, The Mall, Waterford City concludes this evening.

INMO and SIPTU statement on HSE decision to close Clifden District Hospital

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and SIPTU have said the sudden decision to close Clifden District Hospital is shocking and emergency engagement is needed with staff and representatives through the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission.

INMO Industrial Relations Officer, Anne Burke said: “The announcement today from the Health Service Executive that they are closing Clifden District Hospital is shocking for the nursing staff, the hospital and wider community. At a time when the health service is struggling so profoundly in terms of capacity, every possible effort must be made to maintain and increase bed capacity in the community – not regressive steps to reduce capacity and in turn create difficulties for both the public and staff.

“Neither staff or their trade union representatives were given prior notice that this decision would be announced today. This flies in the face of all that nursing staff have done to maintain services in Clifden District Hospital, particularly over the last number of weeks.

“It is not acceptable to our members that staff and the community have been treated this way. There is now an urgent need for the employer to engage with staff and their representatives. To this end the INMO is now seeking an emergency conciliation conference under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission.”

Commenting on the issue, SIPTU Health Organiser, Yvonne McGrath added: “Our members are deeply shocked at the way they have been treated by management today. This is a dark day for everyone associated with Clifden District Hospital. Despite repeatedly requesting engagement through the trade unions, management have refused to meet and instead have issued this unilateral decision today. It is service users, staff and the community who will suffer as a result of this decision. We will be joining the call for an emergency conciliation conference within the Workplace Relations Commission.”

SIPTU says government report does little to resolve staffing crisis in care sector

SIPTU representatives have said that a Department of Health report on the recruitment and retention crisis for home carers and nursing home healthcare assistants will do little to resolve a problem which is threatening services across the country.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Pat Flannery, said: “The Strategic Workforce Advisory Group on Home Carers and Nursing Home Healthcare Assistants, published last week, falls short of what is required to deal with staffing issues in the sector.

“While recommending the payment of the National Living Wage of €12.90 per hour in for-profit and voluntary settings, it does not recognise that this falls significantly short of wages for similar roles within the public service.

“The starting hourly rate for healthcare assistants and health care support assistants in the public service is €14.65 per hour. They earn €18.88 per hour at the top point of their salary scales.

“Staff will vote with their feet and opt to work for the public service, if this is not addressed.”

He added: “Other recommendations go some way to addressing the concerns of our members. These include, that as part of the tendering process for the provision of home support services, workers should be remunerated for travelling between clients’ homes and any reasonable travel expenses incurred.

“The report recommends a significant increase in the proportion of home support hours and packages provided directly by the HSE. As the situation stands, there are areas where home support packages are delivered almost exclusively by for-profit and voluntary providers.

“It also calls for the establishment of an Expert Working Group to investigate the appropriate mechanisms to reach agreement on pay and pensions for home support and healthcare assistants in the private and voluntary sector. SIPTU representatives will be ensuring that we have representation on this group.”

SIPTU National Executive Council Statement On The WRC Proposals On The Review Of ‘Building Momentum’ Public Service Agreement

The National Executive Council (NEC) of SIPTU met on Monday, 5th September 2022, to consider the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) proposals on the review of the pay provisions of the Public Service Agreement, Building Momentum.

SIPTU, along with colleague trade unions in the Public Services Committee of the ICTU, invoked the review clause of the Agreement arising from the cost of living and inflation crisis.

The NEC, having considered the details of the proposals, decided that they should be put to a ballot of SIPTU members in the Public Service and Section 38 Agencies with a recommendation for acceptance.

The WRC proposals issued in respect of the Review, when taken with the existing measures of Building Momentum, are structured in a manner that is consistent with previous public service agreements which prioritised the position of lower and middle-income earners.

The NEC also noted the position of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform that economy-wide cost of living measures would accompany pay improvements. These measures will be addressed in Budget 2023 and through the Labour Employer Economic Forum which is to meet in September 2022.

If these proposals are accepted, it will extend the current Public Service Agreement until the end of December 2023. Negotiations on a successor Agreement for 2024 and beyond will likely take place during the Summer of 2023.

Accordingly, the SIPTU National Executive Council recommends acceptance of these proposals in a secret ballot vote to be held over the period from Monday, 12th September to Wednesday 5th October, 2022.

WRC-proposed public pay package skewed to lower paid

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) this morning (Tuesday) proposed a public service pay package aimed at resolving differences between public service unions and Government officials following over 19 hours of talks. The ICTU Public Services Committee (PSC) subsequently met to consider the proposal at 10.00am today.

The package would see pay increases of 3% with effect from 2nd February 2022, 2% from 1st March 2023 and 1.5% or €750 (whichever is the greater) from 1st October 2023. This is in addition to 1% or €500, whichever is greater, due at the beginning of October 2022.

The minimum payment of €750 a year from next October means the package would be worth 8% to a worker earning €25,000 a year and 7% to a person on €37,500 a year.

This morning’s PSC meeting decided that individual unions should now consult members, through ballots and other means, on the package in advance of a collective decision on whether to accept or reject the package. This will take place at a further PSC meeting on Friday 7th October, where voting will be weighted to reflect the number of public servants that each union represents.

PSC chairperson Kevin Callinan said he believed the outcome of this long process was the best that could currently be achieved through negotiations.

“We’ll now be explaining this package to union members, who will have the final say in ballots. Neither side has achieved all it sought, but this package is a significant improvement on the pay terms of Building Momentum, and it is worth more to those who need it most. This underlines the importance of the unions’ decision to invoke the review clause in the current agreement.

“Over the past weeks, Minister McGrath and his Government colleagues have repeatedly promised to supplement pay measures with other cost-of-living supports through the Labour-Employer Economic Forum (LEEF) process and the forthcoming Budget. Workers will now expect delivery on that promise. A Government failure to deliver will certainly impact the ballots that will shortly get underway,” he said.

PSC secretary John King said the PSC was also recommending that planned industrial action ballots be suspended while unions consult on the WRC package.

The pay talks resumed at noon yesterday (29th August) after a ten-week hiatus during which the Government said it was reflecting on its position. Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath said his revised offer was final, although union negotiators held out for an improved sum for lower paid public servants.
The total 2022-2023 increases due under the WRC-proposed package would be:

1) 2nd February 2022 3%

2) 1st October 2022 1% or €500 a year (whichever is the greater). Note, this was agreed under the original Building Momentum agreement

3) 1st March 2023 2%

4) 1st October 2023 1.5% or €750 (whichever is the greater).

These are in addition to Building Momentum increases of 1% or €500 a year (whichever is greater in October 2021, plus a sectoral bargaining fund worth 1% of annualised basic pay from 1st February 2022.

John King also said that the Union would holding a meeting of its National Executive Council as part of a process to commence consultations with members immediately, in advance of commencing a ballot vote for acceptance or rejection of the proposal’s.

SIPTU public service members commence consultation process for industrial action

SIPTU organisers in the public service representing members in the Health, Local Authority, Education and State sectors, are today commencing a consultation exercise with its members in advance of ballots for industrial action over pay later in August.

SIPTU Deputy General Secretary John King said: “Balloting for industrial action will begin on 29th August if there is no successful outcome to the talks on a review of the ‘Building Momentum’ agreement. The Workplace Relations Commission has invited the Public Service Committee of Congress to talks but the government side has said that it is not in a position to attend until the end of the month. While we have welcomed the invitation, we intend to continue the consultation process with our members and, in the absence of a set of proposals that can be put to our members, the ballots for industrial action will commence.”

The Public Services Committee of Congress invoked the provisions of the review clause in ‘Building Momentum’ on 11th March, 2022 when inflation was at 5.6% and when it was clear that the modest terms of the public service agreement, concluded in January 2021, were being completely eroded by the dramatic increase in the cost of living for workers. With inflation now running at 9.1%, union members are becoming increasingly frustrated at the Government’s failure to conclude an acceptable review of the pay terms of the Agreement.