News Courts

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Workers' pay was cut after flu deaths crisis, tribunal told

Greg Harkin

Published 18/07/2014 | 02:30

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STAFF at a care home where seven pensioners died in a flu outbreak were thanked for their hard work during the crisis and then told they were having their wages cut, a tribunal has heard.

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The residents died at the Nazareth House nursing home in Fahan, Co Donegal, over a 15-day period in March and April 2012.

The home was later heavily criticised by HIQA for failing to notify the health authorities quickly enough about the flu outbreak. The investigation also found the home didn't have enough staff.

However, an Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) in Letterkenny yesterday heard the manager of six Nazareth House nursing homes in Ireland blame government cutbacks for his decision to impose an eventual 13.5pc pay cut.

Fourteen non-nursing staff at the home won a case before the Rights Commissioner to have their pay restored after the home failed to consult them properly as required by law.

The Sisters of Nazareth are appealing that ruling.

Just days after the HIQA report was released in May 2012, staff were called to a meeting to be told of the pay cut.

"We were thanked for our work during the epidemic and then told about the pay cut. I told sister Alice (Kirwan) 'you are more or less taking money out of my purse'.

Bombshell

"She did not answer me," said staff member Sharon McCarron.

Martin McLaughlin, a caretaker at the home for 47 years, told EAT chair Fiona Crawford the pay cut was "like being hit by a bombshell. I was in total shock".

Staff want more than €31,000 in back pay as part of their case, supported by SIPTU.

However John O'Mahoney, national manager of the Nazareth House homes in Ireland, said the home was now in so much debt it could face closure.

He blamed former Health Minister James Reilly for changes to the funding of nursing homes and the scales set out by the National Treatment Patient Fund.

Irish Independent

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