Red Alert Protocol progressing

Storm Emma was described as a “once in a generation” event. However, in the last six months, Ireland has experienced two “once in a generation” weather events; Storm Emma and Storm Ophelia last October.

As the disastrous effects of climate change deepen, it seems certain that in the coming years’ extreme weather events will become a greater feature of our lives.

It is during such periods of national crisis that the value of our health, emergency and community services is driven home to us.

SIPTU members across the country should be proud that the men and women in these jobs, who stepped up to keep our health, emergency and community services going, in the majority of cases, belong to our union.

They are our healthcare assistants, our home care workers, our catering assistants, our porters, nurses, midwives, radiographers, radiation therapists, ambulance professionals, the list goes on.

It is through our members’ commitment and their pride in their work which ensures that all our society endures the stresses of such traumatic events, displaying the best of the values of community, public service and unity which underpin the principles of our union.

It is with those principles in mind that SIPTU Health representatives early last week demanded the development of a red alert weather protocol for all health workers built on specific staffing arrangements and a fair pay structure.

The fact is, that only through the collective effort of our members that our health and emergency services remained operational throughout Storm Emma. Our members slept on hospital floors, didn’t go home for days and put their shoulders to the wheel when the going got tough. We make no apologies for demanding that any extreme weather protocol takes their herculean efforts into account.

Proper recognition and remuneration for staff exposed to danger while working or travelling to work in hazardous conditions is a must if we are to give certainty to the public and provide security for workers.

By the end of the week, HSE management confirmed that SIPTU members who attended work on Red Alert weather warning storm days will be paid for time worked and receive time off in lieu. In a letter to the union, management also agreed that staff who could not get to work or whose place of work was closed due to red alert weather warning will be paid as normal.

A Red Alert Protocol for the public health service is progressing and a process of engagement between the HSE and the Trade Union group has commenced on a red alert protocol. Further discussions will take place on Wednesday 14th March 2018 to progress ancillary issues. A working group will establish a clear protocol for dealing with future red weather alerts with a view to reporting before the end of June 2018.

If you are a health worker who attended work over the period of the ‘Red Alert’ weather event and have a story to tell please share it with us here.

SIPTU representatives demand red alert weather protocol for all health workers

SIPTU Health representatives have demanded the immediate development of a red alert weather protocol for all health workers that is underpinned by specific staffing arrangements and a fair pay structure.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell said: “It is only through the collective effort of our members that our health service remained operational throughout Storm Emma. The actions of these workers should be recognised for minimising the risk to the public during the red status weather alert. It is clear that ambulance professionals, health care assistants, catering staff, porters, nurses, midwives, those working in diagnostics, to name only a few categories of workers involved, went above and beyond the call of duty. Many slept in hospitals, others in hotels, some walked for miles just to make their shift.

“However, lessons must be learnt concerning the mixed messages from the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, about the treatment of staff who could or could not get to work. Another particularly difficult issue was home helps getting access to people in their homes. We also had a potentially dangerous incident in Naas where an ambulance station was not able to operate for 12 hours because of the failure to put in place provisions to clear its entrance. It was only through the herculean efforts of workers and one brave community volunteer with a JCB that the station was able to get up and running again.”

Bell said there is a need for an extreme weather protocol which must take into account the proper recognition and remuneration for staff exposed to danger whilst working or travelling to work in hazardous conditions.

“Minister Harris confirmed in a tweet that health workers who were unable to attend work when a red status weather warning was in place, would be paid for the hours they were scheduled to work and would not be required to take leave to cover any absence as a direct result of Storm Emma. Crucially, the Minister confirmed that the HSE would find a way to ‘acknowledge’ the efforts of staff who braved the elements to come to work during the big freeze on Thursday and Friday.”

He added: “We look forward to opening a conversation on these issues when the group of health unions meet on Wednesday (7th March). It is also our intention to seek support from our colleagues in the trade union movement for the immediate development of an extreme weather protocol that will give certainty to the public and provide security for workers.”