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Changes to working hours under HRA

Under the Haddington Road Agreement (HRA), the INMO wishes to advise members of recent developments in relation to increasing hours in the working week of all public servants including nurses/midwives.

Additional hours under HRA
Nurses and midwives increased their standard working week to 39 hours under the HRA. However they are permitted to maintain the 37.5-week with the consequential pay adjustment.

Staff who did not choose this option require new rosters incorporating the additional hours. These are now agreed in all but a small number of locations. Where agreement has not been reached, Joint Review Groups (JRG) have been convened to assist the process. The HSE has confirmed that the engagement of these JRGs (consisting of two union representatives and two management representatives) has been a positive feature of the HRA to date.

It is regrettable that despite the positive approach taken by nurses and midwives, through the INMO, in implementing increases to their working hours, the HSE still seeks to exert further controls over how the additional hours are worked.

On January 17, 2014, the HSE issued a circular setting out its intention to set up a national ‘management assurance’ group. The purpose of this group is to examine if reductions to costs and expected savings have occurred and to support local service managers in implementing cost reductions. It states that this is to be done, ‘while maintaining and promoting delivery of high quality health services’.

As INMO members know, all public health services are overstretched to a dangerous level. The constant focus on cost containment is placing the delivery of safe care in jeopardy. A number of meetings were held on this issue in January, and the INMO has reiterated its position as follows:

  • Additional hours, where members opted to work them, are to be agreed locally. Once agreed locally, and in place, no further review under this agreement is required, or provided for, in the HRA
  • If members opted to stay on the 37.5-hour roster, with the appropriate pay adjustments, that is their right and management accrue savings from the reduction to salary.

The INMO will continue to support nursing/midwifery managers who continue to put patient safety before cost containment measures. The INMO has repeated a call to remove the moratorium on recruitment to ensure safe staffing levels.

Despite a loss of 5,021 nursing/ midwifery WTE posts since March 2009, the moratorium continues. This issue has been referred to the LRC. At the LRC, the INMO will argue that the moratorium must be lifted for all nursing and midwifery posts. This hearing is scheduled for March 7, 2014 and a full update will issue immediately afterward.

Changes to sick leave
Arrangements for paid sick leave in the public health services are changing. The INMO, and Public Service Unions’, explanatory documents on these changes are available on www.inmo.ie. The Department of Public Service and Reform announced on February 5, 2014 that the implementation date for these changes is March 31, 2014. The INMO is currently holding explanatory, regional meetings to explain the changes to members. Further meetings will also be arranged, by the industrial relations officers, if requested by members.

The INMO is acutely aware that the requirement to increase working hours under the HRA was a huge ask for members. In that context where revised rosters are now in place, following agreement locally, they must not be subject to further review.

Equally, where members have decided to remain on their previous hours this is totally appropriate, under the agreement, and no member can be forced to change their hours.

As always, members should contact the INMO immediately if they are concerned about any issue related to working hours under the HRA.

Phil Ni Sheaghdha,
INMO director of industrial relations

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Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation (Cumann Altrai agus Ban Cabhrach na hEireann). The Whitworth Building, North Brunswick Street, Dublin 7. T:+353 1 664 0600 E:inmo@inmo.ie