Care staff work nights for less than minimum wage while health executives get top up payments

Tuesday 19th November 2013

A number of residential child care and disability agencies are breaching HSE pay guidelines for chief executives while requiring staff to work seven-hour sleepover shifts for just €6.40 an hour – well below the statutory minimum wage of €8.65 an hour. IMPACT and SIPTU today (Tuesday) said the HSE was tolerating top-up payments for senior managers in health agencies and hospitals, but refusing to address the fact that staff were being paid below the minimum wage for working essential sleepovers.

The unions also say HSE management has admitted that residential child care and disability agencies are routinely breaching working time legislation by requiring staff to work an excessive number of sleepovers on top of their standard 39-hour working week. They are today (Tuesday) referring the issue to the Labour Court after talks, under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission,  broke down yesterday. Management in the agencies and the HSE have failed to reach a resolution on the issue during six months of talks, despite being required to do so under the Haddington Road agreement. The unions say staff are being expected to work 63-hour weeks at a minimum.

The unions said the Brothers of Charity in Limerick paid its CEO over €103,000 a year while many of its staff do 49 hours of sleepovers each fortnight. The CEO of Saint Michael’s House in Dublin earns €140,000* a year while many of its staff do an average of four 7-hour sleepovers a fortnight. Stewarts Hospital in Dublin, which also depends heavily on sleepovers, pays its CEO almost €175,000 a year.

IMPACT national secretary Louise O’Donnell said the HSE and its agencies were claiming that the sleepover issue could not be resolved because of cost and resource constraints. “There appears to be no effective limit on pay costs for chief executives. Meanwhile managers order staff to work as many as seven sleepovers a fortnight, in flagrant breach of Irish and EU working time laws, for the princely sum of €3 an hour after tax,” she said.

The head of SIPTU’s health division Paul Bell said the unions would now pursue their case in the Labour Court. “Sleepovers are essential to the care and safety of people with disabilities and young people in residential care. It is an insult to the staff and the people they serve when the HSE and its agencies say they can’t or won’t pay people to do them,” he said.

*This news item was edited at 15:35 on Wednesday 20th November. An earlier version stated that the salary figure was  €176,000, which was drawn from Department of Health files seen by IMPACT. An article in today’s Irish Times states that “On Monday St Michael’s House said that the salary of its chief executive had been set at €140,000 since the Haddington Road agreement was implemented. It said that previously it had been set at €151,000.”