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13 February, 2020

Statement on industrial action by SIPTU and Forsa union members

On 7 February 2020, the SIPTU and Forsa trade unions informed St Patrick’s Mental Health Services (SPMHS) that their members working in the household and catering services of SPMHS would engage in strike action from Friday, 14 February. On the evening of 13 February, strike action planned for 14 February was deferred as discussions between parties continued.

A lunchtime protest had previously taken place from 12pm to 2pm on 7 February, as announced at a joint meeting of the unions on 6 February.

SPMHS wishes to assure service users, their families and carers that there will not be any disruption to services during this period of industrial action.

These developments relate to a decision to outsource household and catering services, taken by the Board of Governors and management of SPMHS in June 2019, following a lengthy and thorough due diligence process.

This decision was reached in support of SPMHS’ strategic objective to focus on core clinical services and to ensure that SPMHS can continue to provide a leading mental health service. The decision does not represent a reflection on the dedication and effort of staff, whose loyalty and excellent service is acknowledged and appreciated.

As part of the transfer process, and as required by Transfer of Undertakings (TUPE) Regulations, SPMHS confirmed with the new suppliers that transferring staff would retain identical terms and conditions of employment under their new contracts. SPMHS also agreed to honour the terms of transferring employees’ pension entitlements. 

Throughout 2019, SPMHS management consulted with colleagues affected by this decision and their trade unions to discuss the details of the transfer to external suppliers. This consultation was undertaken in accordance with the TUPE Regulations and with SPMHS’ own internal industrial relations processes.

Following a lack of agreement with trade unions on the transfer, the matter was referred to the Workplace Relations Commission for conciliation in July 2019 and again in November 2019, but a basis for agreement could not be found.

SPMHS management’s subsequent request to refer this matter to the Labour Court was rejected by the trade unions on 2 December 2019.

Following an exchange of correspondence between SPMHS management and trade unions, it was clear that agreement on the transfer could not be reached and that the trade unions were not prepared to adhere to usual practice and agree to be party to a referral of the matter to the Labour Court. As a consequence, on 20 January, SPMHS served staff and trade unions with written notice that outsourcing these services would proceed without the agreement of trade unions, following the regulatory 30-day consultation period.

On 28 January, SIPTU announced that its members working in SPMHS would begin balloting for strike action on this issue. Forsa held a secret ballot of its members. Balloting of SIPTU and Forsa members led to the decision to take industrial action, up to and including strike action, from both unions, with formal notification of strike received on 7 February.

SPMHS is disappointed with SIPTU and Forsa’s assertions that calls for talks were ignored, as SPMHS has sought to engage in open, constructive talks with all representatives throughout this process and has taken considerable measures to try to reach agreement at every stage, including in the wake of the notification of strike action.

SPMHS again wishes to affirm that all services, including household and catering, will operate as normal on 14 February, and there will be no disruptions to referrals and admissions, programmes or any other services.

SPMHS will not be making any further comment on this matter at this time.

This statement has been updated since its initial posting on 6 February to reflect the notification of strike action.