HSE staff lose battle to keep smoking hut
Published 26/08/2011 | 05:00
WORKERS at the Health Service Executive headquarters have lost a battle to keep an outdoor smoking hut.
They had been allowed to light up at the gazebo on the grounds of Dr Steevens' Hospital in Dublin for the past seven years since the workplace smoking ban began.
Management agreed to build the gazebo after the ban but recently decided they wanted to shut it down and turn the campus into a tobacco-free zone.
A union representing the smokers objected, but has lost its case.
Now the smokers will have to take a five-minute walk to be able to light up outside the grounds of the hospital.
The outdoor shelter is now set to be removed after the Labour Court backed a strict enforcement of the ban.
The national ban -- which has existed since 2004 -- does allow employers to provide outdoor smoking areas if they want.
However, the HSE -- which is responsible for enforcing the ban -- decided it wants the Dr Steevens' Hospital campus to become a smoke-free zone.
The Labour Court accepted the smoking gazebo was built near the building, which is no longer a hospital, as the result of an agreement between management and IMPACT in 2004.
However, it said no agreement "can be regarded as immutable for all time" and described the HSE's plans to turn the campus into a tobacco-free zone as "commendable on health grounds", and recommended that the gazebo is removed.
The plans for a tobacco-free campus are part of the HSE's 'Tobacco Control Framework', which it says "reflects current international best practice" and means all HSE campuses will become tobacco-free within five years.
It said is was providing "numerous support systems" to staff who want to quit smoking at the offices -- which are opposite Heuston Station.
IMPACT argued that the HSE could not just decide to breach its agreement with staff.
It said any previous plans put forward by the health employer to create tobacco-free zones were only for hospitals.
"The gazebo is a separate building on the (former) hospital grounds," it said.
"If the HSE intends making such buildings tobacco-free, there should be discussions at national level in the first instance."
The court said the union should accept that the gazebo is removed but that the parties should hold talks to identify "practical and effective measures" to help smokers deal with the tobacco-free plans.
The decision may have an impact on staff at other HSE offices who currently enjoy similar smoking arrangements.
The national smoking ban came into force in March 2004 has has since been imitated by countries worldwide.
It forbid smoking in enclosed places of work including office blocks, pubs, restaurants and company vehicles.
"Following the court's recommendation we look forward to working with and supporting staff in the continued roll-out of this initiative," said a HSE spokesperson.