Sunday 25 February 2018

Woman tells how hospital cut her pay when she turned 65

Siptu health division organiser Paul Bell. Picture credit; Damien Eagers
Siptu health division organiser Paul Bell. Picture credit; Damien Eagers

Anne Marie Walsh

A 65-year-old woman employed at a Dublin hospital has told how she was offered a contract on lower pay and conditions when she asked to work for another year.

The woman, who works in a support role, said she applied for an extension of her contract after the age to qualify for the State pension rose to 66 and the transitional pension was abolished.

She told the Irish Independent that she decided she would prefer to work for another year rather than go on the dole.

The woman was speaking as Siptu revealed it has encountered this practice, which it describes as "exploitation", at hospitals including Tallaght Hospital, St James and St Vincent's, and among home help workers for the HSE.

It demanded that Health Minister Simon Harris sanction an automatic extension of service to all lowpaid health workers.

The union says it has come across roughly 170 cases where support staff, including healthcare assistants, porters and catering personnel, have been forced to retire or offered inferior contracts at 65 over the last three years.

It said wages offered to staff earning from €30,000 to €31,000 a year have been in the region of €25,000 to €26,000.

Although the practice is not illegal, the union condemned it because the Government encourages workers to stay in employment as it pushes up the retirement age in the coming years. The age at which workers can draw the State pension will rise further to 67 in 2021 and 68 in 2028.

"I think it's very unfair that I have to sign a new contract as I won't have the same job I do now," said the hospital worker.

"When I looked to work an extra year, they said they would look into it, but I was so disgusted with what they came back with.

" If I could retire and get the State pension, that would be grand, as I don't want to go out on the dole queue.

"But I'd rather go on the dole than sign the contract. It's a principle with me now, even though I won't like it one bit."

She said the new contract would mean she would be on a lower point on the pay scale, be rostered on weekends, and would not get overtime.

Siptu health division organiser Paul Bell said the issue had become more prominent since the transitional pension was axed.

"The HSE has been doing this in relation to home helps and we've encountered it in the voluntary hospital sector," he said.

"They are either refusing to allow people stay on at 65 or forcing them into a contractual situation for a 12-month period on terms and conditions that are inferior to what they're on now.

"It's unfair how they are being treated and there is now evidence that lower paid staff are being treated less favourably than professional grades who want to stay on.

"Professional staff get incremental credit, which means they get recognition for the service they have."

He said women had been predominantly affected because they were more likely to have had to leave the workforce for periods of time due to family commitments. As a result, they wouldn't have full service for their occupational pension.

Although he accepted offering such contracts was not against the law, he said a refusal to give incremental credit was a breach of recruitment procedures.

Spokespeople for St James and the HSE were unavailable for comment.

A Tallaght Hospital spokesperson said it offered to support staff the same national HSE terms and conditions as all other public health sector employers.

Irish Independent

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