Wednesday 13 December 2017

Union demands 'clarity' on deal

IMPACT won't end HSE action until jobs are secured in Croke Park pact

Anne-Marie Walsh, Michael Brennan and Katherine Donnelly

THE largest public sector union will not lift industrial action that is "strangling" the health service until it gets crucial clarifications on the Croke Park deal.

IMPACT members will refuse to pass on critical financial information to the Health Service Executive until assured the draft agreement does not pose a threat to their job security.

The union, representing 20,000 health workers, insisted the deal should not overrule an earlier agreement that affirms their right to permanent, pensionable jobs yesterday.

Talks to resolve the three-month old dispute over pay cuts were on a knife-edge last night after resuming in the late evening.

HSE Director of Human Resources Sean McGrath has admitted the industrial action has put a "stranglehold" on the day-to-day running of the service. He warned that the HSE may be forced to cut services as it had no idea how its budget is being spent.

It has also been revealed that a group of recently retired nurses have been deprived of their pension payments for four months due to the industrial action by members of the union.

A total of 28 retired nurses and health staff in the HSE West region covering Galway, Mayo and Roscommon have been hit by the industrial action.

They have retired since January yet cannot receive their pensions or their pension lump sums because IMPACT members are refusing to process their financial information.

Root

An IMPACT spokesman said the root of the dispute was a decision by the HSE to relocate the pension processing work from local offices to a new centre in Manorhamilton in Leitrim last December.

He said the dispute had fallen under an IMPACT industrial action campaign against the pay cuts when the HSE pressed ahead with its plans.

Fine Gael senator Fidelma Healy-Eames said the retired nurses had been left with nothing to live on as a result of the industrial action.

"It's an outrage. I have great difficulty with IMPACT victimising people who have given their service like this without their permission. They are four months without their pension," she said.

IMPACT will not end the ongoing campaign of action over paycuts until it gets key assurances on the draft public service deal, including clarification that it does not conflict with job tenure rights in a 2004 agreement.

IMPACT National Secretary Kevin Callinan said the union was trying to get clarifications but had not made much progress. "What we're saying is we have proposals and will have a ballot but in the absence of clarifications we are not considering change in the current action," he said.

Failure to end the row could lead to a strike if the HSE acts on its repeated threat to take staff who do not carry out their normal duties off the payroll.

Failure to resolve the dispute could also put the future of the already troubled public sector agreement in further jeopardy.

The health staff make up almost half of IMPACT's public sector membership and could swing the final vote.

The agreement is already expected to have a rough passage during balloting in the next few weeks after being rejected by the executives of most unions.

Meanwhile, General Secretary of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland, John White, said clarification on the proposed review of teachers' contracts in the deal was "vital".

Irish Independent

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