Wednesday 20 September 2017

Care workers hit out at roster changes that will see 'back-door pay cuts' and 'more assaults'

Calendar (stock image)
Calendar (stock image)

Rebecca Lumley

Care workers have hit out at upcoming roster changes, claiming the overhaul will undermine pay restorations and endanger staff members’ safety.

Workers of the HSE funded group Brothers of Charity will work on a rotating roster system under the new plan from September.

They will now be expected to work all manner of shifts, as opposed to solely working day or night shifts.

Brothers of Charity is the largest provider of care services for people with intellectual disabilities in Ireland and run a number of establishments throughout the country.

A Brothers of Charity care assistant told Independent.ie that the proposed roster change would have a "detrimental effect" on the charity’s patients and staff alike.

The carer, who did not wish to be named, is employed in a home for "challenging" patients.

The carer said that routine was paramount to the smooth running of the facility and explained that staff were often reprimanded for small changes made in the house.

"Routine is absolutely key. Even opening a window that’s not meant to be opened can lead to serious incidents," they said.

They explained that small changes in the status quo can lead to potentially violent outbursts from patients and claimed that 90pc of care assistants from the facility where he is based were admitted to hospital last year with subsequent injuries.

They argued that the introduction of a rotating roster will significantly disrupt patient routines, potentially causing more violent incidents and increasing staff turnover.

"As it is, some shifts you suffer assault, after assault, after assault for 12 hours. This is a major health and safety issue," they said.

Staff are also set to face pay cuts under the new system, with disruptions expected for workers’ pay scales.

They said that while they and their colleagues are entitled to 7pc pay restorations, they will lose the benefit of such through "back-door pay cuts."

“We, the workers signed up to the Croke Park agreement, which gave us massive pay cuts, but only now we find out it offers us no protection whatsoever from even more back-door pay cuts.”

"Our hours aren't going to reduce, just the arrangement of our hours will change, to reduce our incomes. We will work the same amount of hours, over crappier shifts, have less time off, suffer more stress, and endure more painful assaults, all for less pay."

'Change in needs'

Brothers of Charity management told staff at a consultation meeting that the roster changes were being implemented due to a "change in patient needs."

The minutes of the meeting show that management also wished to have staff experience all aspects of the role, which would allow them to work at their "optimum level."

The consultation was given by Services Manager Gillian Darrer in January at a facility in Cashel.

She said it was "good for the team to move around from days to nights as everyone gets to see what’s happening and it provides a holistic service to the people we support."

She also stated that it was illegal for staff to work only night shifts, as "being on nights long term can have an effect on your health."

There was no workers; union representative present at the meeting.

When approached for comment by Independent.ie, Brothers of Charity said "any change in policy which impacts on our staff is negotiated with staff and their Union representatives."

They added; "We endeavour at all times to ensure the safety of the people who use our services and our employees and to operate within the law and in accordance with best practice."

Care workers in the organisation are represented by trade union Impact, who informed executives at the charity that a consultation process must occur in order to change workers’ rosters.

This condition is listed under the Croke Park agreement and states that an organisation must assess the impact of such changes on employee numbers, rosters, earnings, redeployment, re-skilling and family circumstances.

Workers argue that management did not seek employee input, did not gather information regarding impact on employees and only consulted with a small number of workers in the organisation.

Workers asked Impact for their assistance in opposing the roster change, but were told that as the consultation requirement was fulfilled, any such changes were "the prerogative of the organisation."

In emails seen by Independent.ie, they stated that they could only assist workers who could not comply to changes for health reasons or because of specifically stated hours in their contracts.

Impact told Independent.ie that they had been "actively working on the issue of roster changes" and "totally rejects any suggestion that the union has failed to effectively represent members on the issue."

The union contacted Brothers of Charity and requested employee consultation, which they say has been carried out satisfactorily. They also advised against carers taking industrial action.

"We believe this management response met the requirements for consultation that the union had sought."

"Any third party industrial relations adjudication on this issue would (as is always the case) rely on the explicit terms in the contracts of employment, which clearly specify a 24/7 liability. On that basis, we advised members that recourse to a third party process would fail."

Roster changes are expected to come into effect in September.

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