Unions call on Taoiseach to save local employment services

Today’s demonstration starts at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin’s Upper Merrion Street at 12 noon and finishes at 1.30pm.

Fórsa and SIPTU members, working in Local Employment Services (LES) and Job Clubs are set to demand an immediate intervention from Taoiseach Michael Martin today (Monday) at a protest outside the Department of the Taoiseach. Unions say the protest will highlight the threat to the livelihoods of their members and the vital services they provide to the community from the imminent threat of privatisation.

The unions have said a Government-imposed tendering process favours for-profit providers over the current community-focussed, not-for-profit service. This means that privatisation, job losses and a diminished employment service is likely unless the Government changes course.

Vital community employment services will be damaged at a time when over 300,000 people are unemployed or on PUP payments.

 

Fórsa official Lynn Coffey said: “Jobs have been lost already and more are on the line if these changes proceed as planned, with the prospect of staff being thrown out of work as early as January. At the very least, pay and working conditions are likely to be greatly diminished. And vital community employment services will be damaged at a time when over 300,000 people are unemployed or on PUP payments.

“We are demanding that the Taoiseach listens to our concerns over jobs and service quality, and works with us to establish a stakeholder forum involving service providers, job-seekers, workers’ representatives, government and academic experts,” she said.

“Jobs are on the line if these changes proceed as planned, with the prospect of staff being thrown out of work as early as January. At the very least, pay and working conditions are likely to be greatly diminished. And vital community employment services will be damaged at a time when over 300,000 people are unemployed or on PUP payments,” she said.

Fórsa says the expertise and experience of local employment staff has been praised by jobseekers, agencies, employers, third-party quality management assessors, independent auditors and policy think-tanks.

 

SIPTU official Adrian Kane, said: “Our action is backed by both unions and employers to highlight the decision by the Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys, to change the tendering process for the provision of these essential local employment services. The reality is that these workers and local development companies have been providing these essential public services for over 25 years very successfully and now after all those years of loyal service have been left with no other option but to take to the streets to fight for their jobs and livelihoods.”

He added: “The calls from SIPTU and Fórsa representatives for an urgent meeting with the Minister have consistently been met with silence. This is not acceptable or sustainable. What is needed now is for the Taoiseach to step in and establish a genuine stakeholder forum to agree a fair way forward. A real plan that all parties, providers and service users can get behind. If this does not happen, this dispute will only escalate further and that will undoubtedly have an impact on these essential community services

School secretaries to strike after Government let-down

Ireland’s school secretaries are to stage a one-day strike on Wednesday 15th September, and will gather in the capital for a national rally on the same day.

Their union Fórsa said pickets would be placed on the Dublin headquarters of the Department of Finance and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER), which stand accused of blocking implementation of a Government commitment to standardise pay and conditions of school secretaries.

Most of them earn just €12,500 a year, with irregular short-term contracts that force them to sign on during the summer holidays and other school breaks.

Almost a year ago, the Government made an explicit commitment to resolve this issue. But the offer that followed falls far short of that and lacks all credibility.

 

It is almost a year since Tánaiste Leo Varadkar spoke on the matter in Dáil Éireann, and gave a commitment to year end the four-decade system of pay inequality, which has been criticised by parties across the political spectrum.

The dispute was subsequently referred to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) where, last July, the education department offered an increase of just 50 cent an hour, a proposal that Fórsa dismissed as ‘derisory.’

The union’s head of Education, Andy Pike, said the education department’s failure to make the expected proposals to fully standardise pay and conditions for school secretaries and caretakers had let them bitterly disappointed as they face into yet another school year of pay discrimination.

“The department’s offer fails spectacularly to meet the commitment made by the Tánaiste in the Dáil last October, when he said this four-decade pay inequality would be ended once and for all. School secretaries have again been let down by their employers and by the Government.

“They had a reasonable expectation that a solution would be in place by now. They have campaigned and made their case, which has won broad public and political support.

School secretaries have been badly let down, and feel that industrial action is now the only option open to them.

 

“Following Mr Varadkar’s 2020 Dáil statement, school secretaries and caretakers counted the Government among those who backed pay equality in our schools. But that is evidently not the case, School secretaries have been badly let down, and feel that industrial action is now the only option open to them,” he said.

The staff affected are employed by individual school boards of management, and are paid out of the ancillary grant provided to each school. As a result, they earn far less than the minority of school secretaries and caretakers who work in ETB schools and are employed directly on Department of Education pay scales.

Mr Pike said the employer’s offer would still leave the majority earning about €12,000 a year less than their directly-employed colleagues. Aside from pay, the proposals contained no movement on standardisation of leave, sick leave and other conditions of service. Neither did they address access to an occupational pension scheme in a similar way to directly-employed staff.

“Almost a year ago, the Government made an explicit commitment to resolve this issue. But the offer that followed falls far short of that and lacks all credibility.

“It’s totally disheartening for school secretaries who have worked above and beyond during the Covid crisis, which brought additional responsibilities to administer the pandemic response including the provision of PPE and other equipment, distance learning and complex leave and attendance arrangements,” said Mr Pike.

Fórsa is currently balloting school caretakers as they are also disadvantaged by the pay inequality. They will join the 15th September strike if the ballot result backs strike action.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS BOOKLET

 

Covid-19: Next phase of ‘Return to Work’

Patricia King, General Secretary has written to An Taoiseach Micheal Martin TD to outline the principle concerns for the next phase of the return to work.  You can read the full text of this letter here.

Covid – one health worker’s story. Pay us decent wages!!!

Covid – one health worker’s story

As part of the RESPECT = RECOGNITION campaign by the group of unions representing health service workers, we reached out to a few Fórsa members to tell us about their experience of working during the Covid pandemic. JACKIE BROWN works in emergency department admin at one of Dublin’s main acute hospitals, and provided this thoughtful account.

The experience of working at the frontline, in an emergency department during the Covid pandemic, has been both challenging and rewarding.  For this generation it’s changed the world and how we work.

In January 2020 the world didn’t realise exactly what the virus was, or how quickly it was to change the health systems so radically and so quickly.  When Covid-19 was declared a pandemic by the WHO it changed everything, and steamrolled through our lives.  Very quickly the hospitals had to adapt.  The rapid changes brought fear of the unknown. We were waiting, and preparing, with a sense of impending doom.

The emergency department became the epicentre of the virus. We were so fearful at the beginning. Like the rest of the country during that first lockdown, we got on with our work. As we tackled the virus day-by-day, the days turned into weeks, the weeks into months. Looking back now, the scale of its impact would’ve been almost impossible to imagine.

Fear also turned to adrenaline and helped drive all of us. Our clinical colleagues, and everyone in our departments, pulled together to support each other and maintain a service. There was no vaccine. Our PPE was the only the barrier between us and the virus.  We worked throughout, the fear always in the background, but we knew we had to provide a service, people were counting on us.

Fear also turned to adrenaline and helped drive all of us. Our clinical colleagues, and everyone in our departments, pulled together to support each other and maintain a service. There was no vaccine. Our PPE was the only the barrier between us and the virus.

 

Like all other frontline workers who continued in their post in other sectors, we each felt a duty of care. It was not just a job. We were driven by a sense of coming together, to continue what we could, to play our part and help society to keep going.

Always at the back of our minds was the question of catching the virus. The sad reality is that some of our colleagues lost their lives.  There was the added fear of taking the virus home.  But we had to suppress any fear, and I could see everyone doing the same. Human strength prevails in many situations and the pandemic certainly brought that to the fore.

The elation, delight and relief that came with the early roll-out of vaccinations was palpable among my colleagues.  It ran with military precision, providing an indication what was to come now that we can see how well Ireland has performed in its national vaccine programme.

We were so grateful to be vaccinated. But still the fear of taking it home to our families remained, until our vulnerable family members received the same protection.

The pandemic remains a challenge. It changed us. And it brought out the best in our health care workers. We stood together, united, and look forward to brighter days ahead.

Jackie Brown, emergency department admin, Dublin.

Unions seek Taoiseach’s intervention on health workers’ Covid recognition

 
Press Release – 16.8.21

Trade unions representing health workers have asked Micheál Martin to help resolve the row over recognition for health workers’ efforts and commitment during the Covid-19 pandemic. In a letter sent last Friday (13th August), they called on the Taoiseach to “intervene immediately to authorise the HSE and relevant Government departments to engage with health service unions to agree and implement the promised recognition without any further delay.”

The move reflects growing frustration among health workers, which was compounded by the HSE’s failure to put forward any proposals at a recent Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) hearing. Instead, the HSE said it was awaiting Government authorisation to engage with the unions.

Tony Fitzpatrick, who chairs the ‘Staff Panel’ of health service unions, said engagements with the HSE since last November had resulted in no progress despite public statements from An Taoiseach, health minister Stephen Donnelly and other senior Government figures, in which they supported proposals to recognise health workers’ extraordinary contribution during the pandemic.

Mr Fitzpatrick wrote: “While health workers appreciate the many supportive statements from you and other Government representatives, they have yet to see any tangible progress towards recognition for their efforts and, in many cases, sacrifice.

“Thousands of dedicated health care workers have had their reasonable expectations raised by the welcome public statements of support by you and other politicians. But they are incredulous at reports that no recognition was offered at the August WRC meeting, and at the news that their unions must now argue their case – seemingly uncontested by the most senior members of Government and health service management – before the Labour Court.”

Mr Fitzpatrick said the impasse was “deeply damaging to the morale of all health care workers who, without exception, have demonstrated extraordinary commitment and willingness to respond to national and public need, as well as Government demands in response to the pandemic.”

The unions have referred the dispute to the Labour Court, but say this should not be necessary as there is broad public and political consensus on the issue. “It can only be described as an extraordinary situation,” said Mr Fitzpatrick.

The unions say the Government’s failure to act has put the Republic out of step with Northern Ireland, the UK, and most EU countries, where health workers have already seen recognition of their extraordinary efforts and contribution.

They also point to research that shows staff who work directly with Covid-19 patients are 47 times more likely to catch the virus than those impacted through community-acquired infection. “Over 30,000 health care workers have been infected with Covid-19 since the pandemic struck in Ireland, and more than 600 have been infected in the most recent 14-day epidemiological report,” said Mr Fitzpatrick.

The national staff panel of health care workers unions represents members of the INMO, SIPTU, Fórsa, IMO, MLSA, UNITE, CONNECT, and the craft group of unions.

ENDS

 
 

SIPTU members in AbbVie consider escalating industrial action in collective bargaining dispute

SIPTU members at the biopharmaceutical company, AbbVie, in Carrigtwohill, county Cork, are considering an escalation in their industrial action in a dispute resulting from the refusal of management to engage with representatives of the workers’ union for collective bargaining purposes.

SIPTU Organiser, Allen Dillon, said: “Members at the plant are currently in their second week of industrial action in the form of an overtime ban in the manufacturing process. They are considering escalating their industrial action if management continue to fail to fully implement two Labour Court recommendations, from 2017 and 2020. 

“These recommendations call on the company to engage with SIPTU representatives on behalf of their members ‘in relation to all matters associated with terms and conditions of employment including pay’.

“SIPTU representatives have written to management on a number of occasions outlining our members concerns in relation to its failure to fully implement the two Labour Court recommendations and engage in collective bargaining with the union. However, to the huge disappointment and frustration of our members, management has refused to respond to or engage with their union either directly or indirectly. 

He added: “The frustration of our members employed at the AbbVie Plant in Carrigtwohill is intensified by the fact that the company does engage with union representatives at its plant in Westport, county Mayo. In that plant management have a good working relationship with SIPTU members and representatives.

“SIPTU representatives are available to engage with management in talks to resolve this long running dispute at all times.”

Mullingar nurses protest over understaffing and “compromised care”

Press Release – 19.7.21

 

members in the Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar will protest outside the hospital today (Monday) against understaffing and an excessive workload – which they warn is compromising patient care.

Mullingar is facing 50 unfilled nursing shifts over the coming fortnight, falling short of the minimum staffing levels required for safe care.

Attendances have increased, while there are currently 50 nursing vacancies (29 permanent) in the hospital, which is putting staffing under pressure.

The INMO have engaged with the HSE to try and find a resolution to this issue and are not satisfied with the response to safety concerns raised.

The hospital aim to recruit for the posts, but the shortfall will not be made up until the end of August at the earliest. Assistance from St. Francis Private Hospital has also been sought.

INMO members are calling on hospital management to restrict services, close beds and divert scheduled care to private hospitals in order to protect standards of care, patients, and staff.

The nurses’ protest will take place at the front gate of Mullingar Hospital from 1pm to 2pm on Monday 19 July.

INMO Assistant Director of Industrial Relations Albert Murphy said:

“It has been an incredibly challenging year and our members have had enough. They are facing increasing demands with too few staff. They are rightly concerned that patient care is being compromised.

“Hospital management need to urgently recruit the necessary staff, but they need to be realistic about the hospital’s current capacity. Work needs to be scaled back to ensure safe care.

“That means closing beds in the short run and making decisions on which care has to be prioritized. Our members cannot be expected to work in environments which compromise their health and safety.”

A nurse in the hospital, speaking anonymously, said:

“I have worked in this hospital for decades and have never seen things so bad. The waves of COVID were genuinely draining and we are now facing huge volumes of patients.

“We simply don’t have the staff to do the job safely. We’ve got a brilliant team in the hospital, but we’re at our wits’ end. We’re simply exhausted. I’m worried that patient care is being put at risk.

“Many of my colleagues are sadly now simply thinking of leaving the hospital, or even the profession.”

-end-

SIPTU calls for ‘blended working’ options for all public sector workers

SIPTU representatives have today (Wednesday, 14th July) said that ‘blended working’ arrangements should be made available, where possible, to workers throughout the public service and state sector.

The call follows the publication by the Government of its ‘Blended Working Policy Statement’ which facilitates civil service workers switching from pandemic-related remote working provisions to more long-term ‘blended working’ arrangements.

SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, John King, said: “This is a welcome, albeit overdue, move from the Government and will go some way towards honouring the commitment in the Programme for Government for one-fifth of public sector workers to be working from home in 2021. Throughout the pandemic, our members in the state sector and public service found remote working challenging. However, many found the experience broadly positive and productive.

“We need to now agree a fair, transparent and flexible framework for ‘blended working’ to be rolled out across the entire public service without delay. This kind of framework has the potential to increase productivity, enhance our members work-life balance, reduce traffic congestion and drive a more balanced economic recovery across the country.”

He added: “For months, SIPTU representatives have been engaging with employers in the state and higher education sectors on new and innovative initiatives towards working that are now at an advanced stage. However, consistency is key. Many employers were waiting for direction from central government and the publication of this ‘Blended Working Policy Statement’ has finally given our representatives the opportunity to follow up on these issues and negotiate blended working policies. At the centre of these policies we will be seeking to place equity in access, proper worker protections and the provision of quality public services.”

WFTU IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE WORKERS AND PEOPLE OF CUBA

The World Federation of Trade Unions, which is the militant voice of 105 million workers in 133 countries on five continents, conveys its internationalist solidarity to the Cuban workers and People. We strongly condemn the recent provocations orchestrated by counterrevolutionary elements in Cuba, organised and financed from the United States for destabilising purposes. Come out and support our Cuban Friends by going to the Cuban Embassy, On Westland Square off Pearse Street on Wednesday 14th at 9am. Stand with Cuba.
 
The world class-oriented trade union movement supports the Cuban People in their struggle against these actions. We demand the lifting of the criminal blockade that for 60 years has been creating serious problems for the economy and the lives of the Cuban people.
 
We support the right of the Cuban People to decide for themselves, freely and democratically, about their present and future, without the intervention of the imperialists. We salute the workers of Cuba, who during the Pandemic demonstrated the solidarity and internationalism of a system that does not treat health and the needs of the people as commodities and that opposes the exploitation of man by man.
 
We assure the heroic Central de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC) that we are firmly on their side to repel this new anti-Cuban provocation.  Together until the victory, always.
 
 

SIPTU members to take industrial action in Doyle Shipping Group at Dublin Port

SIPTU members employed by Doyle Shipping Group (DSG) at Dublin Port have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action in a dispute concerning their pay, terms and conditions of employment and safety concerns within their workplace.

SIPTU Organiser, Jim McVeigh, said: “SIPTU representatives have formally notified DSG management of our members’ intention to take industrial action, in the form of rolling 72-hour work stoppages, commencing on Monday, 19th July. 

“This decision was taken by our members due to the continued refusal of management to recognise SIPTU as their union of choice for the purpose of collective bargaining. Our members in DSG are among the lowest paid workers in Dublin Port. 

“Over recent years they have, through their SIPTU representatives, tried to engage management in negotiations to secure decent wages and conditions of employment. They are deeply concerned and angered by the continued refusal of management to negotiate with them on a collective basis. Their anger has been further compounded by the refusal of management to discuss serious safety concerns.”

He added: “SIPTU representatives are available to immediately engage with management on all the issues in dispute. There is a strong resolve among our members to continue with rolling 72-hour work stoppages until a resolution to their issues is achieved.”

DSG provides a number of services at Dublin Port, including the loading and off-loading of cargo