No To Pay Cuts ‘Sleight Of Hand’

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SIPTU members on the 100,000-strong February 9th Dublin demonstration against paying for the bankers’ crisis
SIPTU members on the 100,000-strong February 9th Dublin demonstration against paying for the bankers’ crisis

IRELAND’S largest nursing union, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has warned companies with agency nurses that they have no right to impose the terms of the Haddington Road Agreement on those nurses.

In letters to three companies, INMO director of industrial relations Phil Ni Sheaghdha says she wants to ‘correct the assumption’ that the cuts are automatically applicable to agency nurses.

In the letters to TTM Healthcare, CPL Healthcare, and Nurse on Call, she said: ‘As the employer of agency nurses you are a private company.

‘The Haddington Road proposals are a collective agreement for employees of the public service.’

Sheaghdha stressed: ‘It is the INMO’s position that you cannot adjust the rate of pay of any agency nurse as you do not have the authority.’

In a later letter in response to correspondence from Nurse on Call, Sheaghdha warned that if it cuts nurses’ pay ‘we will pursue the right to object’.

Meanwhile, public sector union IMPACT has said it will not cooperate with the implementation of new working time arrangements in situations where local or sectoral management refuse to allow staff to opt for reduced pay rather than increased hours.

The union said withholding this option was a breach of the Haddington Road Agreement (HRA), which came into force this month.

The issue first emerged when the Health Service Executive (HSE) issued a ‘frequently asked questions’ document, which changed the wording of the HRA.

The agreement says: ‘management will allow persons to opt to remain on their current hours with appropriate pay adjustments for a period.’

The HSE document substituted the word ‘will’ with ‘may.’

In a letter to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DEPR), IMPACT general secretary Shay Cody said: ‘This is an unacceptable sleight of hand and will inevitably mislead both employers and staff.

‘I would find an approach of this nature unacceptable whether it came from the union or management side, and I must insist on immediate steps to correct the misleading account of the HRA.’

He said IMPACT would invoke the agreement’s arbitration clause if necessary.

The union has also questioned a June 2014 time-limit on such arrangements, which appeared in a DEPR circular last month.

Cody said IMPACT did not accept this time limit, which does not appear in the text of the HRA.

The department responded by agreeing to a union proposal that both sides should meet to discuss the matter early next year.

In a separate development, IMPACT members have backed a deal on a single set of terms and conditions for office-based staff in Limerick city and county councils by a margin of 85%.

The two authorities are merging into a single local authority under the Dublin government’s reform plans.

Under the new agreement, existing office-based staff, up to and including SEE/AO cognate level, will work 35 hours and 15 minutes a week. The new roster takes effect in both councils from 15th July.

IMPACT official Andy Pike said the merger had presented several challenges.

‘Management has acknowledged the contribution of staff throughout a challenging merger process which, in a significant development in the history of the county, will see a single local authority for Limerick.

‘A merger like this is bound to present challenges, which is why it was important to have proper engagement throughout the consultation process,’ he said.

A redeployment protocol is already in place for office-based staff in Dooradoyle and the Limerick city centre office and further staff movement is now planned for the summer and autumn period

Staff in a number of departments have already moved to new single departments and all the redeployment has taken place without any disruption to the public.

l Dublin believes senior managers across the public service will have key roles in maximising the savings to be generated under the Haddington Road agreement on reducing the public service pay bill which came into force at the beginning of this month, officials have told journalists.

They have warned that senior hospital executives who do not manage within their official budgets in future face being sacked.

Senior ministers have said the agreement will deliver 300 million euros in savings on the State’s pay and pensions bill this year and one billion euros by 2016.

According to press briefings, as part of new healthcare management structures, managers will increasingly be appointed on fixed-term contracts, running for three or five years.

If those appointed to top positions in the new healthcare structures, which include new hospital groups, did not do their jobs competently, their contracts would not be renewed.

Officials told reporters that there would be ‘no future in the system for people who did not implement policies set down by the government’.

One official said: ‘In addition to the obvious cost benefits, the agreement provides the scope to progress the reform agenda and to deliver the unprecedented increases in productivity across the public sector.’

Under the new agreement, staff earning more than 65,000 euros have had pay cuts implemented, while across the public service a longer working week has been introduced.

The Enda Kelly government has maintained that central measures in the agreement such as cuts in pay, reductions in pensions for some retired public servants and pauses in increments will realise about 340 million euros of the total one billion euros in savings to be generated in the State pay and pensions bill by 2016.

Dublin also believes that significantly enhanced productivity across the public services, arising from the provision of about 15 million additional working hours and other efficiency and reform measures, will deliver about 431 million euros in savings.

It is intended that the additional work will produce the savings by facilitating further cuts in staffing numbers, as well as reducing the amount paid in overtime and on recruiting staff from agencies.

The government has estimated that the elimination of supervision and substitution payments to teachers will generate savings of 125 million euros a year.

Dublin also believes that other savings in the Garda or Defence Forces, such as cuts in overtime rates, could realise savings of almost 230 million euros.

It is expected that budgets for parts of the public services such as health and education will next year be based on the expectation that the Haddington Road agreement will deliver savings.

The health budget alone for 2013 is based on savings of 150 million euros being realised.