Following a process undertaken through the Workplace Relations Commission, an industrial issue between St Patrick’s Mental Health Services (SPMHS) and SIPTU and Forsa trade unions was formally resolved on 17 February 2020.
The issue related 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 (WRC) 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.
SPMHS was disappointed with SIPTU and Forsa’s assertions at this time that calls for talks were ignored, as SPMHS had sought to engage in open, constructive talks with all representatives throughout this process and had taken considerable measures to try to reach agreement at every stage, including in the wake of the notification of strike action.
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. A lunchtime protest took place from 12pm to 2pm on 7 February, as announced at a joint meeting of the unions on 6 February, with formal notification of strike received on 7 February.
On the evening of 13 February, this strike action, planned for 14 February, was deferred as discussions between parties continued. SPMHS, SIPTU and Forsa further engaged in a series of meetings on 13 and 14 February, facilitated by the WRC, at which the WRC put forward a proposal for the orderly transfer of household and catering services to external suppliers. SIPTU and Forsa put the proposal to staff on 17 February, recommending its acceptance, with the proposal accepted by a clear majority. The transfer of services took place on 18 February
Throughout this process, the best interests of service users and the strategic focus on clinical services remained the priority for SPMHS.
This statement has been updated since its initial posting on 6 February to reflect the developments in this process.
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