Survey on mental health in your workplace
Fórsa’s Health & Welfare Division is surveying members to elicit their views on workplace mental health issues, and how they are handled by management and the union. The results of the survey will be unveiled at next month’s Fórsa health and welfare conference, which is being themed around the issue of mental health.
Fórsa’s Health & Welfare Division is surveying members to elicit their views on workplace mental health issues, and how they are handled by management and the union. You can access the survey here. The results of the survey will be unveiled at next month’s Fórsa health and welfare conference, which is being themed around the issue of mental health.
Your answers to the nine simple questions in the survey will inform union policies and campaigns for healthy workplaces and improved attitudes towards mental health issues.
Fórsa health leader Éamonn Donnelly said the union represented over 30,000 health and welfare staff. “Many of them deliver mental health services to the public. All of them encounter the challenges of mental illness in the workplace. That’s why we’re making this a central theme of the conference this year,” he said.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. It affects how we think, feel and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
“There’s nothing unusual about experiencing or encountering mental health problems at work or elsewhere, and it’s important to know that help is available,” said Éamonn.
You can complete the short survey here.
Community health consultation intensifies
Fórsa is conducting extensive consultations with health and social care professionals (HSCPs) in advance of further discussions on community healthcare structures and reporting relationships.
Section 39 pay talks to resume
Fórsa is conducting extensive consultations with health and social care professionals (HSCPs) in advance of further discussions on community healthcare structures and reporting relationships.
The union’s Health & Welfare divisional executive committee considered detailed HSE proposals at its scheduled monthly meeting today (3rd April) in advance of a meeting with HSCP professional and vocational groups this afternoon.
The management proposals were tabled at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), which is facilitating discussions on community health network structures.
Fórsa and the HSE reached agreement on a ‘network model’ last September. This included agreements on improved staffing structures, which the WRC says are contingent on agreement on line management and reporting relationships. These issues are now under intense discussion.
Fórsa expressed anger that the HSE had circulated details of the proposals before union consultation had commenced. It had been agreed in the WRC that this wouldn’t happen.
But the union’s Head of Health Éamonn Donnelly says progress on community health organisation structures is crucial for Fórsa members and for the future development of local services.
“Our health service is too hospital-centric. Investment in primary care close to citizens is a public good in its own right. And it would also free badly-needed capacity for those who really have to go to hospital, where our members are struggling against the odds to deliver quality services,” he says.
Health professional representatives backed the union’s objective of reaching agreement on line management and reporting at a meeting of vocational groups, which took place in Dublin last month. The vocational groups said they do not oppose the general thrust of the proposed network model in principal, but they believe that reporting and line management matters are ‘red line’ issues.
Fórsa is poised to enter talks with the HSE on the next phase of pay restoration for staff working in HSE funded agencies (Section 39).
Job evaluation secured at Tusla
Fórsa is poised to enter talks with the HSE on the next phase of pay restoration for staff working in ‘section 39’ agencies, which are funded by the HSE but independent of it. The talks will address agencies that weren’t covered by the first phase of pay restoration, which was secured by the union last year.
Last year’s deal, which resulted in €1000 payments for workers in 50 organisations, is due to take effect from 30th April.
Fórsa official Ian McDonnell said the union was committed to completing the process of pay restoration for workers in the community and voluntary sector. “Both parties are due to reconvene in the WRC on 18th April to discuss the remaining 250 funded organisations. We’re expecting the HSE to provide details of those organisations on or before that date so that no group is excluded,” he said.
The 50 organisations involved in the first phase of pay restoration are all required to return validation paperwork to complete the pay restoration process. “In addition to a comprehensive list of the remaining 250 organisations, we’re expecting confirmation that those first 50 have completed the pay restoration validation process,” said Ian.
Full restoration for all Section 39 workers is due to be completed by October 2021. Fórsa has continued to develop a strategy for organisation and recruitment in the sector, in order to boost the union’s negotiating strength for staff in the funded agencies.
Fórsa has secured access to a job evaluation process for Tusla clerical and admin grades III to VI as part of the HSE job evaluation scheme.
Fórsa awaits registration assurance
Fórsa has secured access to a job evaluation process for Tusla clerical and admin grades III to VI as part of the HSE job evaluation scheme. The union is working with Tusla, the child and family agency, on a document that will outline the process for Tusla staff.
Tusla has agreed to provide additional staff to become evaluators. This will increase the number of evaluation teams available to undertake evaluations.
Forsa official Chris Cully said this was a significant step forward for clerical and admin grades. “Our hope now is to have the scheme expanded for admin and managerial grades, which is going to require further engagement between the union and the employer,” she said.
In a related issue, Fórsa has referred a claim for grade VIIs to have access to the HSE job evaluation scheme. The outcome of the Court hearing, which is scheduled for May 3rd, will inform the union’s approach to progressing the claim in Tusla.
The union is also calling for a job evaluation scheme for health and social care professionals, though this is currently being resisted by HSE management.
Fórsa is awaiting assurances that the civil registration service will not be taken into the civil service General Register Office (GRO).
Minister to launch disability rights network
Fórsa is awaiting assurances that the civil registration service will not be taken into the civil service General Register Office (GRO). The GRO has denied that this is planned, but Fórsa officials say there is an increasing amount of “noise” suggesting that it may be.
The union met management on this and other civil reg issues in February, but a meeting scheduled for late March was delayed at management’s request. The union expects the position to be clarified when the meeting is reconvened.
Fórsa Head of Health Éamonn Donnelly said the union wanted to move onto important issues like recruitment, job evaluation, and the conversion of temporary posts to permanent jobs. “We really need clarity on the future status of the service before we can address these issues. I expect that to happen soon,” he said.
The launch of the Fórsa Disability Rights Network takes place this Saturday (6th April) at 11am at Fórsa's Nerney's Court office.
Gender pay law moves closer
The launch of the Fórsa Disability Rights Network takes place this Saturday (6th April) at 11am at Fórsa's Nerney's Court office. The event will be opened by Finian McGrath, the Minister of State for Disability Issues.
Senior Fórsa official Andy Pike said the new network will provide a forum for members across the union to meet and discuss issues relevant to disability rights in the workplace.
“This national meeting is the second in a series of new equality networks to be established by the union’s equality committee over the coming months. The meeting will be of interest to Fórsa members living with a disability, members working to provide disability services, and activists with an interest in disability rights,” he said.
A full programme for the event, and details about how to register are available here.
Legislation published by the Government has confirmed its intention to limit gender pay gap reporting requirements to organisations with more than 250 employees at first.
New ‘green deal’ demand
Legislation published by the Government has confirmed its intention to limit gender pay gap reporting requirements to organisations with more than 250 employees at first. But this threshold will fall to 50 – in line with union demands – after three years.
It means that just a third of employers will initially have to publish gender pay gap information when the legislation is first enacted. This will cover almost half a million people who work in firms with more than 250 staff, and the first deadline for firms to submit their pay gap data is expected to be December 2020 or January 2021.
A further 22% of the workforce will be covered once the threshold falls to 50 staff or more.
The legislation will also require reporting on differences in bonus pay, part-time pay and the pay of men and women on temporary contracts.
Fórsa has been at the forefront of the trade union campaign for legislation on gender pay gap reporting, which it says would encourage employers into tangible action to bridge the gap. But the union last year criticised the Government’s decision to delay the process by withdrawing support from a well-advance Bill in order to produce its own legislation.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions and National Women's Council have called on the Government to compel all employers to publish the gender pay gap data within a year of the legislation coming into force.
Fórsa is hosting a screening of the film A Silent Transformation at 6pm tomorrow (Thursday 4th April) as part of the Fórsa Insights series.
Public supports more tax for housing
Fórsa is hosting a screening of the film A Silent Transformation at 6pm tomorrow (Thursday 4th April) as part of the Fórsa Insights series. The documentary is about the transformative power of co-ops, and the impact they have had in communities across Ontario.
The screening, in Fórsa’s Nerney’s Court office in Dublin, will be followed by a panel discussion on the role co-ops can play in finding a solution to the housing crisis in Ireland.
Earlier on the same day, the union is hosting a seminar on climate change, and the impact that a move to a low carbon economy will have on workers in Ireland. The event, ‘A Green New Deal for Workers,’ takes place in Fórsa’s Nerney’s Court office, from 2pm to 5pm.
The event will address what a ‘green new deal’ could mean, and will explore a ‘just transition’ to a low carbon Ireland. Professor John Barry of Queens University, Belfast is the keynote speaker.
The event will also feature interactive workshops around the development of a climate information campaign for Fórsa members, the creation of a sustainability strategy for the union, and establishing a just transition committee within Fórsa.
Fórsa Insights is a series of talks and cultural events open to Fórsa members, ICTU affiliates and NGOs. The aim is to explore a range of issues including human rights, climate change, migration, homelessness and the experience of campaigning for workers rights across the globe.
There’s still time to RSVP to Joe O’Connor for either or both events. For capacity reasons, places are limited to two spaces per branch.
Two-thirds of Irish people believe housing should be made more affordable, even if it requires increased taxes, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Two-thirds of Irish people believe housing should be made more affordable, even if it requires increased taxes, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The data was published as the Irish Congress of Trade Unions urged workers to sign its petition, which calls for a legal right to housing.
The OECD’s cross-national ‘Risks That Matter’ survey found that 41% of Irish people felt more affordable housing was necessary for them to feel more economically secure. It also revealed that Irish people were concerned about the cost of health care and their financial stability in old age.
Fórsa has been campaigning for action on the housing crisis, particularly through the ‘Raise the Roof’ campaign, which is calling for a local authority house-building programme, greater security for tenants, and a constitutional right to housing. The union is urging members in the Galway area to join a lunchtime protest next Monday (8th April).
The OECD survey asked 22,000 people in 21 countries about risks relating to social and economic issues, and how they felt their governments were doing addressing those risks.
A factsheet on Ireland’s ‘Risk that Matter’ survey findings is available here.
2019 Fórsa Gaeltacht grants
Unions slam retirement age decision
Applications are now open for the 2019 Fórsa Gaeltacht grant scheme, which will make 80 grants of €150 each available to assist children of Fórsa members attending residential Irish language courses in Gaeltacht areas this summer. A further 40 grants of €70 are available to assist children to attend day-only Irish language courses held outside Gaeltacht areas.
Children of Fórsa members, who are aged between 11 years and 18 years of age on 1st July 2019, are eligible to apply for the grant scheme. You can download the application form HERE.
Please download the form to a folder on your device prior to filling it out. If you cannot use the fillable form online then please print the form, complete it in black pen and return it to: General Services Committee, Gaeltacht Scheme, Fórsa, Nerney's Court, Dublin 1, D01 R2C5. It should arrive before 5.30pm on Monday 29th April 2019.
All queries and applications should be sent to email@example.com.
Galway urged to tackle housing crisis
Unions have strongly criticised finance minister Paschal Donohoe for refusing to help public servants recently forced to retire at age 65, but who were retained in work on diminished pay and pension arrangements. The decision was communicated to unions last month.
The limited interim arrangements had been put in place following the Government’s 2014 decision to raise the state pension age from 65 to 66. This meant that civil and public servants who depend on the state pension for a large part of their retirement income faced a huge gap in the first year of retirement.
Many took up the temporary fix of being re-hired until they were eligible for the State pension. But those who exercised this option were placed on the first point of the non-pensionable pay scale, and were not able to make further pension contributions.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions had urged Donohoe to give the staff concerned the option of extending their 12-month retention arrangement up until age 70, and to get increments due to them during this period.
Late last year, the Government bowed to union pressure and legislated to give civil and public servants the option to remain in employment up to age 70 if they chose.
The legislation also required the finance minister to outline potential remedies, within three months, for public servants who had been forced to retire between 6th December 2017 and the commencement of the new law. But the minister has opted to do nothing for them.
“As a result we have a cohort of people who wished to extend their working life, but cannot do so simply by virtue of the date of their 65th birthday,” said Fórsa official Billy Hannigan.
Public servants recruited after 1st April 2004, but before January 2013, were not covered by the new legislation because they already either have no compulsory retirement age or the ability to retire up to age 70.
Fórsa campaign seeks enhanced local democracy
Fórsa is supporting ONE Galway’s rally on behalf of the Raise the Roof housing and homelessness campaign, which takes place in Eyre Square at 1pm on Monday 8th April.
The event will show support for a housing motion from Mayor Neil McNelis, which will be debated in Council chambers later that day. It calls for significant investment in public housing, action on evictions, rent certainty and the creation of a legal right to housing. These are all policies that Fórsa supports.
Homelessness is growing faster in Galway than in any other Irish city. This growing crisis has seen over 10,000 people – workers and their family members – on the council housing list for the first time. But still the Government clings to its catastrophically-failing policy of private provision.
It’s time for a new approach, which is why Fórsa has teamed-up with homelessness organisations and other unions to demand public provision. It’s the best and quickest route to safe, secure and affordable housing for all.
That’s why the union is asking you to devote one hour of your time, at lunchtime on the 8th April, to stand in solidarity with workers, their families and all those affected by Galway’s housing and homelessness crisis.
You really can make a significant contribution to this campaign, and show real solidarity amongst the people of Galway.
Fórsa backs sustainable development coalition
Fórsa and other unions, which together represent over 30,000 local council workers, have launched a campaign for substantially increased revenue and funding powers for local authorities. Last week, the union published research that shows Irish councils have less autonomy from central government than their counterparts in 39 European countries.
The ‘More Power To You’ campaign also calls for legislative changes to facilitate directly-elected mayors and restore and expand town councils, which were abolished in 2014. You can support the initiative by signing its pledge HERE.
The research paper, Democracy Works If You Let It by Dr Mary Murphy of Maynooth University, finds that only 8% of Irish public spending occurs at local government level, compared to an EU23 average of over 23%, and that a quarter of the Irish spend is not fully under local authority control.
And it says that, with just one city or county council for every 148,507 people, Ireland has far fewer local municipalities than similar-sized European countries.
The study says Irish local authorities perform fewer functions than municipalities across Europe, with their roles largely confined to physical infrastructure and environmental and recreational services.
Democracy Works If You Let It claims this impacts negatively on local employment, service quality, value-for-money, environmental protection, and local jobs and economic development. It has also contributed to declining local election voter turnout.
The research says local democracy has been eroded by:
• A decade of austerity, which cut budgets and slashed council staffing by a quarter;
• The centralisation of services like water, driving licences and higher education grants;
• The privatisation of services like refuse collection and housing; and
• Excessive executive direction and new management processes that have increased bureaucratic powers at the expense of political representatives.
The ‘More Power To You’ campaign is seeking commitments from political parties, and candidates in the upcoming council elections, on a range of local government reforms covering waste, water, housing, and energy services. These include:
• Legislative changes to facilitate directly-elected mayors;
• The return and expansion of the town council system, which was abolished in 2014;
• Increased revenue and funding powers, with parallel systems of accountability and transparency, to move the percentage of local authority-managed public spending towards the European average;
• An immediate end to the outsourcing of council housing maintenance and a medium-term shift to a new local authority-led public housing model;
• Stronger regulation of the waste sector to ensure that every household has access to an affordable waste disposal service, as a precursor to the reintroduction of improved public provision;
• A constitutional referendum on the right to water, which should ensure that water and waste water services remain in public ownership and control;
• Investment in local authority environmental and sustainable energy infrastructure and staff, to facilitate the maximum use of the SEAI ‘Better Energy’ programme.
Speaking at the launch, Fórsa National Secretary Peter Nolan said: “Irish people take great pride in their counties and cities, yet this element of our democracy has been systematically eroded by centralisation, privatisation and austerity. People in Ireland deserve structures and systems that deliver quality local services that match the best in Europe. We’re calling on political parties and local council candidates to join us in a campaign to achieve that.”
Dr Mary Murphy of Maynooth University said: “Local government can be an important source of economic development and local jobs, while local authorities across Europe are playing a leading role in transitioning to low-carbon renewable energy. We need to rebuild Irish local democracy and citizen participation to build strong local economies based on good jobs and decent incomes, and to address climate change.”
Limerick Soviet’s centenary celebrated
Fórsa has become part of an alliance of over 60 civil society organisations working to ensure that Ireland keeps to its commitment to achieve sustainable development goals at home and abroad.
Coalition 2030 promotes the global development agenda for the entire world up to 2030 through a set of 17 sustainable development goals.
Niall McGuirk, Cathaoirleach of Fórsa’s Civil Service Division, put forward a motion backing the coalition at the union’s national executive last month. Writing in the latest edition of Fórsa magazine, he said the union would advocate for the implementation of these goals.
“It's not just about words, it's about actions too, small actions from each and every one of us that will help. Consider the type of world we can aspire to. A world free from poverty is goal number one. Zero hunger is goal number two, while good health and wellbeing comes next,” he writes
Niall said a ‘Just Transition’ paper that ICTU is currently developing – and which seeks to secure workers' jobs and livelihoods while economies shift to low-carbon production – is linked to goals covering decent work, sustainable cities and communities and climate action.
ICTU Development Officer David Joyce also welcomed Fórsa’s decision to join the coalition. “Congress has been working to ensure that trade unions are aware of the goals and use them in their work. We’re delighted to welcome Fórsa as a new member of Coalition 2030, and as part of this global movement to ensure that Governments live up to their commitments,” he said.
Read more about on trade unions and Coalition 2030 here.
A series of events to mark the centenary of the Limerick Soviet kicks off on Friday (5th April) as the city marks 100 years since the 1919 strike, which was precipitated by the death of trade union and republican activist Robert ‘Bobby’ Byrne. The centenary programme runs until 28th April with a wide range of events.
The strike, which made international headlines, was against a permit system introduced by the British military authorities. The workers took over all aspects of the running of the city, produced their own daily paper, policed the city, controlled all food and fuel supplies and even printed its own currency.
Fórsa official and President of the Limerick Council of Trade Unions, Mike McNamara, will host a bus tour of the sites of the Limerick Soviet with Liam Cahill on Sunday 14th April.
Mike said he was delighted with the commitment of so many people to celebrate the Limerick Soviet. "It’s a very impressive programme and I’m sure the public will enjoy the many opportunities to become more familiar with this aspect of our city's history. I applaud the voluntary and community spirit of so many involved in providing Limerick with such an impressive festival of events,” he said.
Mike has written a history of the events around the Limerick Soviet which appears in the latest edition of Fórsa magazine, which is out next week.
Find out more at limericksoviet100.ie.