Saturday 21 September 2019

Porters break room closed by hospital due to 'staff smoking on their break'

Porters protesting outside University Hospital Limerick
Porters protesting outside University Hospital Limerick
Rachel Farrell

Rachel Farrell

A break room for hospital porters at University Hospital Limerick has been closed by management as a result of staff members smoking on their break.

UHL management said they made an “unusual” decision to close the break room as staff members continued to smoke despite requests to stop.

“UL Hospitals Group has consulted with Porters and their representatives since early July in an effort to bring a stop to the practice of some Porters smoking in their break room on the University Hospital Limerick campus,” a hospital spokesperson told Independent.ie.

“Smoking in the workplace is not permitted by law. Despite managements’ multiple requests to stop smoking and in the case of some individual Porters, the instigation of disciplinary procedures, smoking in the break room continued.”

According to management, the location of the break room meant that smoke from the room was reaching some of the nearby wards, putting patients at an “unacceptable risk”.

“Due to the location of the break room, smoking in that area created an unacceptable risk to respiratory patients as smoke was reaching wards.  In addition, we are also duty bound to protect employees from the effects of smoking.  

“In view of the on-going practice of smoking in the break room by some Porters and to reduce the level of risk to our patients and staff, we took the unusual step of closing the restroom.”

The spokesperson added that porters still have access to the hospital canteen and that they are liaising with porters to resolve the matter.

A number of the porters, who are part of SIPTU, took to the hospital grounds last week to protest over managements refusal to engage with their union & address the workers concerns, SIPTU said.

“They feel let down and discarded by management. The union stands with them. The community support them,” a SIPTU spokesperson said.

In a statement to Independent.ie, a spokesperson for the trade union said representatives today met with management at UHL in an effort to resolve the dispute.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Tony Kenny, said: “SIPTU were notified of the threatened closure of the porters rest room which was in place for over 25 years on 13th of July 2018. We wrote to management on six separate occasions prior its closure seeking to meet to find a resolution to the provision of restroom facilities prior to closure of the room.  Since July, only two meetings were held with management around this issue. One prior to the 2 hour work stoppage on 9th October, and one prior to the 4 hour work stoppage last week.

“Since our last stoppage, engagement on the overall state of Industrial Relations on site and the issues affecting our portering members have commenced with the CEO of the Hospital group. We remain hopeful that a fair, equitable and respectful resolution can be found to this and other matters through this engagement, and in recognition of this we have not notified management of any further industrial action at this juncture. The strike committee will be meeting in the coming days to review the recent industrial action, be updated on these discussions and decide on a future course of action.”

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