The trade union representing around 33,000 administrative, clerical and clinical workers in the HSE is to consult its members on industrial action over what it says is the growing privatisation of its recruitment processes.
Addressing delegates at Fórsa’s health and welfare conference in Galway, senior official Ashley Connolly said she had informed the HSE of the dispute and the union would “take whatever steps are necessary to protect our members core work”.
Fórsa says that outside agencies are doing an increasing amount of the recruitment work itself and that many of the workers hired this way remain on the books of the agency rather than becoming directly employed.
“We have collective agreements in place that are being ignored,” said Ms Connolly on Wednesday evening.
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She said that the union was happy to talk to the HSE about taking alternative routes to the filling of key posts that were proving hard to fill “because this isn’t about disruption to services but we need to have this addressed” but warned that the current situation threatened to become chaotic.
“We (the HSE) are moving to six independent areas and the fear is that if these practices continue we will lose the run of the place in terms of how people are coming in. What we are going to have is areas competing against each other for staff so what we need is streamlined practices and in-house recruitment teams.”
She said there had been communication with the HSE on the issue in recent weeks but there was no resolution in sight. In the absence of one, she said, a ballot on industrial action is likely in the second half of June.
Addressing the conference on the issue, Paddy Payne, a delegate representing the union’s Offaly branch, said the use of private firms set a “dangerous” precedent.
“I’ve had first-hand experience of dealing with these private sector recruitment agencies (and) they’ve no feel for the administration of the HSE. If there are gaps in staffing the HSE needs to recruit staff directly. Private outsourcing has been a failure,” he said.
Delegates at the conference, which is to be addressed on Thursday morning by HSE chief executive Bernard Gloster, passed several motions on the wider issue of privatisation.
Members of the Cork branch of the union were behind one that was critical of the widespread use of outside companies in the provision of services to children in care, arguing that it was not an area in which profit should be a factor.