Hospital chefs ballot for strike action, say they are ‘a forgotten group’

Chefs seek move to ‘craftworker’ pay grade; HSE calls ballot ‘premature and unnecessary’

Natasha Linehan, a chef at St Finbarr’s Hospital in Cork. Photograph; Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Natasha Linehan, a chef at St Finbarr’s Hospital in Cork. Photograph; Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

 

About 1,000 chefs employed by the HSE in hospitals and other health facilities are to ballot for strike action in the weeks ahead.

The chefs, who believe that they are the “forgotten group” in the health service, claim the Government has failed to implement the recommendations of a review to allow them to move on to the higher-paid craftworker pay scales.

Natasha Linehan, a chef at St Finbarr’s Hospital in Cork, said their roles and responsibilities have changed significantly over the last two decades. She said all chefs have qualifications but their grade is not aligned to any other group in the health service. She says it has been nearly 20 years since there was last a specific pay review for their grade.

Ms Linehan said most chefs working in HSE facilities are on what is known as a grade II position and earn about €34,500 when they reach the top of their scale after 10 years.

She said some hospitals have experienced significant difficulties in hiring chefs on a starting salary of about €24,500, given that there is a shortage in the economy generally.

Ms Linehan said an independent review last year concluded that chefs had no pay relationship with any of the craft groups within the public service and should be permitted to migrate to the existing craft pay scales.

She said the HSE and the Department of Health had agreed to such a development but the Department of Public Expenditure had objected.

Ms Linehan said depending on their grade chefs could see increases in pay of between 6.3 per cent and12 per cent if they were permitted to move to the craftworkers’ pay scales.

Siptu-HSE meeting

Siptu health division organiser Paul Bell said migration to the craftworkers’ scale would be of a small cost to the health service but would be hugely significant for his members.

“The process we entered into was agreed, and our members accepted the findings in mid 2018. Until recent months, we also understood that the Department of Health and HSE had agreed to cooperate with and implement the report. They haven’t and our members feel badly let down and want to take action.”

As well as chefs, several thousand healthcare assistants and other support staff who are represented by Siptu are also to ballot for strike action over the implementation of a job evaluation scheme which they believe will lead to higher pay.

The HSE said it was surprised by the timing of Siptu’s announcement of the ballot for strike action which it said was “unnecessary and premature”.

“The HSE is due to meet with Siptu representatives and other stakeholders on Thursday next week for talks on the job evaluation processes. These talks were amicably agreed as recently as Tuesday of this week. All grievances will be on the agenda for discussion and consideration.

“In light of these scheduled discussions the Siptu statement is both premature and unnecessary and not consistent with existing protocols and agreements regarding engagement with the health sector.”