Outsourcing is a ‘red-line’ issue – IMPACT conference told

Union ‘simply won’t vote for’ any attempt to water down Lansdowne Road provisions on outsourcing

Maura Cahalan, chairperson of IMPACT’s Health and Welfare division. Picture Credit Brian Gavin Press 22
“This is a red-line issue for us. We simply won’t vote for an agreement that puts decent jobs at risk, or which says it’s okay for vital public services to be delivered by staff on minimum wage, with no rights or representation, and no idea whether they’ll have a job next year, next month or even next week,” Maura Cahalan, chairperson of IMPACT’s Health and Welfare division. Picture Credit Brian Gavin

Delegates at IMPACT trade union’s Health & Welfare division conference in Wexford have been told that the union “simply won’t vote” for any attempt to water down the agreed provisions on outsourcing contained in the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

Chair of the division, Maura Cahalan, was addressing delegates this afternoon (Wednesday) at the opening of the union’s conference in Wexford. IMPACT represents almost 30,000 people working in Irish health services. Its members include clerical, administrative and some management grades, as well as health and social care professionals.

Ms Cahalan said, “We are now discussing when – not whether – the hated FEMPI legislation will be gone. I am impatient for the day that we see full restoration of the income lost during the crisis – and I know you are too.

“But I’m confident that our negotiators, led by our general secretary Shay Cody, will bring back the best deal possible at this time.

“That confidence was boosted last week by IMPACT’s strong rejection of any attempt to water down the important protections against outsourcing that this union, and others, won in the teeth of the worst ever recession Ireland has experienced.

“This is a red-line issue for us. We simply won’t vote for an agreement that puts decent jobs at risk, or which says it’s okay for vital public services to be delivered by staff on minimum wage, with no rights or representation, and no idea whether they’ll have a job next year, next month or even next week,” she said.

The Lansdowne Road Agreement requires management to consult with unions and put forward a business plan if they want to outsource a service or part of a service. Crucially, the business case cannot include pay cost comparisons. This includes basic pay, leave, premium payments and pension benefits.

Ms Cahalan added, “Frankly, it worries me that the judgement of well-paid top managers in DPER is so poor that they believe we would let this pass. Particularly in a negotiation that’s supposed to be about recovery in incomes, working conditions and, respect for public services and the people who deliver them.”

Ms Cahalan said that IMPACT has also insisted that any agreement must improve incomes for clerical officers and other low-paid health staff who, through the efforts of the union, have already been taken out of FEMPI.

“It’s a disgrace that, in this day and age, clerical staff – mostly young women – start work on salaries below the living wage, the income you need to pay for food, shelter, warmth and the other essentials of life. That’s why this union will continue to demand progressive pay awards across our public services, with particular focus on those with low entry salary points,” she said.

Ms Cahalan said IMPACT will never accept the lazy stereotype that casts clerical staff, administrators and managers as a burden on Irish health services.

“In reality, we are a small proportion of health workers. Most of us work on the so-called front-line. Others give direct support to doctors, nurses and other health professionals. The rest provide vital back-up in areas like IT, HR, payroll, data protection, medical records, and other services – like responding to Freedom of Information requests from the journalists who like to slag us off,” she said.

The Minister for Health Simon Harris TD, will address the IMPACT conference tomorrow (Thursday 1st May) at 10am. The union’s national secretary for Health and Welfare, Eamonn Donnelly, will respond to the minister. Minister Harris is scheduled to speak just after 10am.

The conference continues at the Clayton Whites Hotel in Wexford until Friday 2nd June.