Fórsa has ensured that the threat of outsourcing of services at the Rathmines women’s refuge is “off the table.” The organisation provides ten family spaces to women and their children who are experiencing domestic violence.
Fórsa went to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) because after the child and family agency Tusla breached the current public service agreement by failing to consult staff on a decision to outsource the management of the refuge to a separate agency. Talks last week led to a WRC process that ensures services will stay in-house.
The refuge closed in September 2017 for renovations and its 15 staff members were temporarily redeployed to other Tusla employments. But when the work was completed last September, Tusla took no steps to inform the staff of its plans to re-open the refuge.
Fórsa official Tony Martin explained: “We made several attempts to establish an opening date for the refuge and a clear schedule for these 15 highly experienced women to return to work there, which they were keen to do.
“Instead we were informed by Tusla of its decision to outsource the management of the refuge to a separate agency. In the absence of any consultation with staff we had no option but to refer this on the basis that it breaches the requirement for consultation contained in the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA),” he said.
Tony said the union’s aim is to ensure the 15 staff are returned to their posts at the refuge as soon as possible. He said the absence of the refuge since September 2017 has been described by Women’s Aid as a “key gap” in service provision for women experiencing domestic violence.
“These are a highly experienced group of staff who delivered a vital and very sensitive service. Their demands are very simple, they just want to return to work to continue delivering that service.
“Tusla has offered no explanation as to why it has looked to a separate agency to run the refuge. It has declined offers to engage and discuss the issue. We've made it clear that we’re available to discuss any outstanding issues once we can re-establish this group of staff to their posts.
We’re glad now to have achieved the first step of taking outsourcing off the table,” he said.
Tony explained that the process will be chaired by WRC reconciliation officer Damien Cannon, and the parties will meet again in just under four weeks’ time.