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.
SIPTU is calling on Section 38/39 organisations and private hospitals, with a pay link to the public service, to do the decent thing and follow @SimonHarrisTD instruction to give paid emergency leave to workers unable to report for duty during #StormEmma pic.twitter.com/RvyPS8FWBm
— SIPTU Health (@siptuhealth) March 5, 2018
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.
Confirmed: “All HSE staff who attended work on Red Alert weather warning #StormEmma days will be paid for time worked and receive time off in lieu. Staff who could not get to work or whose place of work was closed due to red alert weather warding will be paid as normal.” pic.twitter.com/SXhJjaQ22u
— SIPTU Health (@siptuhealth) March 9, 2018
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.