Des Kavanagh answers your questions re the Proposed Agreement
1. Is this a good agreement for the Public Service?
Because each area is covered by a separate Sectoral Agreement it is difficult to quantify the benefits or challenges for the Public Service overall. However, the pay provisions are equally disappointing for all public servants.
2. Isn’t it good to see there is no further threat to Premium Pay?
Well, that is not actually correct. There is a guarantee that Premium Pay rates will remain at current levels. However access to premium time is not guaranteed at current levels. For example, the document talks of reducing staffing numbers on nights and weekends. It talks of reviewing staffing numbers and of increasing the numbers of Health Care Assistants. We have sought assurances on the maintenance of access to Premiums. However, if this guarantee does not emerge then I would fear the imposition of further cuts for some staff under a different guise.
3. At least it guarantees that all existing Agreements and Labour Court Recommendations remain intact.
Well that is not completely true either. There is some ambiguity about this commitment. I was reassured on reading this but during our discussions the employers stated this guarantee did not cover the travel element of the Castlerea Formula or the Agreement on Closure Payments. I have again sought clarity in writing.
4. What about the change in the working week?
The PNA has always been critical of the Health Authorities theory that patients only need to access services on a 5 day Monday to Friday setting. It is now and has always been a nonsense. We need a service which responds to patient need whenever throughout the 24hrs x 7 day week. At least the move to the 7 day 8am to 8pm working day is an improvement for the patient and community. However there are a number of challenges:
- In an environment in which the HSE has so little money it is unlikely that there will be any widespread move to this 7 day service.
- Many staff have worked a Mon to Fri. roster for many years and a move to the 7 day service could be hugely disruptive to home and child-minding arrangements.
- Change should be managed by voluntarism and deployment of new appointees.
In conclusion the PNA is very willing to work with Employers to maximise the 7 day service in the interests of patients and the Community. However, we need the employer to be reasonable and most of all realistic.
5. What are the implications of the proposals re Redeployment :
Every public servant is potentially re-deployable. It seems you can be redeployed to within 45kilometers of your current base without any compensation. However, it is to be offered first on a voluntary basis. If that doesn’t work staff will be ordered out on a seniority basis. (Junior staff first)
6. Is there any good news?
There is the assurance that the Agreement on the issue of HCAs remains intact.
7. Is there to be any relief from the moratorium?
Not really. We continue to be promised that the Dept. of Finance is considering providing some relief but our understanding is that this will be very limited and will mean nothing to the majority of services. The Proposed Agreement is predicated on the continued reduction of Public Servants and is absolutely blunt and indiscriminate. It fails to recognise the relationship between patient care and frontline staffing numbers.
Indeed the Agreement requires us to sign up for reducing numbers and at the same time improving services. We know how hard it is to maintain current services; the idea that we can further reduce numbers and at the same time improve services is deceitful and misleading.
8. At least there is a guarantee that there will be no further Pay Cuts.
Not Quite. That assurance is conditional on the economy not deteriorating any further. In actual fact on the day the Agreement was completed the Minister for Finance announced a further 10 Billion Euro (at least) for Anglo Irish Bank. There are still calls from the usual sources for further cuts. But in fairness it does contain that aspiration.
9. It also contains annual Pay Reviews! Surely that is good.
Of course it is. However we cannot be fooling ourselves. The return of pay already deducted is again conditional on:
- Identified savings achieved.
- Addressing the claims of the lower paid first.
- There being no further deterioration in the economy.
10. If there are savings made in our service will that money be returned to us or pooled for the whole public service?
My understanding is that all savings are pooled for consideration centrally.
11. Based on your responses you will hardly be recommending Acceptance.
No. However it is not my call. This will be a matter for Annual Conference.
12. What would rejection mean?
I don’t think anyone really knows. Rejection would be unprecedented. Some Officials have sought to frighten members with the prospect of more overt industrial action. This of course could happen. However, Rejection would also have implications for Government. I do not think the Public Service Unions should be frightened of the prospect of rejection. We deal with challenges every day. This would just be another problem. In some ways I would prefer the Managers trying to impose cuts than the Union’s volunteering for them.
It is also the case that the promise of no further pay cuts is conditional on acceptance.
13. What would acceptance mean?
For me the worst aspect of acceptance would be the green light we would be flashing for the ‘cutback merchants’ in the HSE. We would be endorsing all of the worst cuts the HSE is trying to impose. Everyone has experience of inappropriate, clumsy cuts in their own service that don’t appear to be founded in common sense. Will it be open season for further cuts of this nature?
14. Have you any final advice for the Members?
Every member should read the complete documents and make up their own mind