13 Aug 2022

EXPLAINED: Why are 10,000 HSE support staff going on strike this Wednesday?

The Minister for Finance, the Minister for Health and the HSE are coming under political pressure to liaise with SIPTU and up to 10,000 HSE support staff who are going on strike this Wednesday, June 26.

Workers, including health care assistants, maternity care assistants, laboratory aides, surgical instrument technicians, chefs, porters and household and catering employees, are planning the 24-hour strike in a dispute over pay.

They were due to strike last Thursday, June 20, but that action was deferred pending further talks, which have proven unsuccessful. 

The action is planned at 38 of the country's biggest hospitals. The HSE have said their are putting "contingencies" in place if the planned strike goes ahead in the absence of a resolution. 

The dispute centres on the Government’s commitment to carry out a job evaluation scheme for these workers under the last Public Service Stability Agreement. This evaluation was to ascertain where and how job roles had changed and if remuneration should be increased to match any changes.

The scheme revealed that skill levels in the above jobs have increased significantly over the last nine years. It, therefore, found that staff are entitled to an increase in pay of up to €3,000 in certain circumstances.

Action has not yet been taken on the findings with SIPTU's Paul Bell describing as "deeply concerning" the fact that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform may not act on these findings until the next national public service agreement in 2021.

The Department says no commitment was made to act immediately on the evaluations but SIPTU disputes this and says the 2017 scheme set out that workers should be upgraded and receive increased pay accordingly. 

There is as yet no resolution with thousands of patients and HSE services set to be affected on Thursday. The full scale of the impact is as yet unknown with the HSE contingency plan not fully revealed. 

Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has urged management and SIPTU to "double their efforts" to avert the action. However, talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) ended without agreement again this week.

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