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TO: Each Branch Secretary – Attention All Members
Date: January 10th 2014
News Update 001/14
Please circulate this News Update to all CPSU members in your area for their
information
Colleagues
Welcome back to the frontline. I hope you enjoyed the festive season.
1. Branch Annual General Meetings
Branches throughout the country should be holding their Annual General
Meetings before the end of the month to meet the deadline for Annual
Delegate Conference which will be in Galway in April. Please make every
effort to attend your Branch Annual General meeting as this is where you get
the opportunity to influence your union’s policies and work programme for the
years ahead. By tabling a motion and getting the support of your branch
colleagues you can bring proposals for changes and improvements to the
Annual Conference where they will be discussed and voted on by delegates
representing members across the country. Head Office Officials will
endeavour to attend as many as possible of the AGM’s and there is a focus
this year on proposals at the ICTU which could radically change the structure
and look of trades unions including the CPSU in the short to medium term.
2. Garda Equal Pay
We have been advised that the High Court is scheduled to give its judgement
in the Garda Equal Pay Case on Monday next January 13 th. A News Update
will be issued as soon as the judgement has been received and assessed.
3. Critical Illness Protocol
While discussions were finalised before Christmas on the terms of the Critical
Illness Protocol (CIP), which will provide for full pay for six months, based on
established / agreed criteria, which we have reported on previously, there
were still a number of outstanding matters which the Unions referred back to
the Labour Court for binding decision. These included the three specific
categories referred to below where it was not possible to reach final
agreement on the treatment of related illnesses.

Pregnancy related illness, including assisted pregnancy related illness

Disability related illness

Mental illness
In relation to each of these matters the Court has recommended as follows;
1.
Pregnancy related illness, including assisted pregnancy related illness
While the Court noted the employer’s position that the management discretion
provided under the Protocol could be applied to address the issue of
pregnancy related illness that do not strictly meet the medical criteria set out
in the CIP, the Court recommended that the circumstances in which
pregnancy related illness should be covered by the CIP should be specifically
set out, although the Court also said that access to CIP should not be
automatic for a pregnancy related illness. They did however recommend a
balance or compromise to take account of the employers perspective and that
of the public service unions and in recommending that in circumstances
where a pregnancy related illness gives rise to the requirement for two or
more consecutive days of in-patient hospital /clinic care, the employee will be
entitled if required where the illness is on-going to avail of extended sick leave
under the Critical Illness Protocol.
2.
Disability related illness
The extent to which disability-related illnesses would fall under the Critical
Illness Protocol and on that basis potentially benefit from extended paid sick
leave was considered in the Submissions received from both parties at the
Court. A key principle governing the operation of the Protocol as set out in
Labour Court Recommendation No. 20335 was that access to the extended
paid sick leave arrangements under the CIP should be exceptional and
therefore the majority of absences relating to illnesses, medical conditions
and injuries should be dealt with under the standard sick leave system. The
key issue to be determined at the Court was the prevalence of what could be
defined as disability-related illness which could potentially be subject to the
CIP if all disability-related illnesses were automatically encompassed under
the Protocol.
In assessing this question the Court heard arguments from the Employer
which included the assessment of the Chief Medical Officer in the Civil
Service who advised that the legal definition of disability is such that a very
large proportion of medical conditions could be represented as related to
disability, but might not fall into the definition of critical illness. For its part the
Unions argued that it was appropriate to provide for reasonable
accommodation under the Law and that this should encompass the sick leave
regulations.
Consequently, the Court recommended on the basis that the Protocol as
drafted already applies to disability-related illnesses that are critical and of a
specified severity that no further amendment should be made to the CIP that
would lead to its automatic application to all disability-related illnesses.
However, the Court said that there should be an explicit recognition of what is
already implicit in the section of the Protocol dealing with the scope for
management discretion that serious disability-related illnesses that would not
strictly meet the medical criteria should be eligible for consideration of the
granting of extended paid sick leave in particular in circumstances that an
accommodation cannot be made to facilitate their return to work.
The Court further recommended that the Employer should also, in the case of
an employee with a disability related illness, take steps to facilitate a
reasonable accommodation that takes account of the particular needs of the
individual in considering if such illness might be regarded as 'critical' for the
purposes of this protocol.
The Court also stated that it is important that employees with a disabilityrelated illness are not precluded from the option of returning to work where
that was possible on the basis of their employer taking all reasonable steps to
accommodate the return to work of an employee with a disability related
illness consistent with service requirements. The Court recommended in this
regard that the section of the Protocol setting out management discretion to
provide access to extended sick leave be modified to reflect the requirement
for the employer to take all reasonable steps in making an accommodation for
a person with a disability-related illness to return to work consistent with
specialist occupational health advice and service requirements.
3.
Mental Illness
The final issue for consideration by the Court relates to the extent that the
Critical Illness Protocol should apply to mental illnesses. Mental illnesses can
range in severity from, for example, severe depression, bi-polar disorder and
schizophrenia to what might be diagnosed as stress-related mild depression
or anxiety.
The union submission at the Court argued for the inclusion of all mental
illness to be covered by the CIP.
The Court noted the position reported in the management submission that the
expert medical and occupational health evidence and advice is that outside of
the illnesses covered by the CIP -- which usually require hospitalisation – in
the majority of the cases of mental illnesses the conditions are not of their
nature critical and with proper medical treatment and other support should not
give rise to extended absence from work. Indeed in many cases returning to
work and avoiding a prolonged absence from work has a measurable
therapeutic benefit.
On the basis the Court recommended, as follows;
(i) all employees with critical mental illnesses will have automatic access to
extended sick leave under the CIP,
(ii) that there is a management discretion available for cases that may not
meet the specific criteria for inclusion under the CIP and
(iii) that more general access to the CIP would impact adversely on the main
objective of the reform of sick leave for the public service
4. Social Protection – Jobpath
Further discussions are due to take place on Departmental outsourcing
proposals, namely Jobpath, in which it is envisaged that the private sector will
take over case management functions on behalf of the long term unemployed
on the basis of payment for success. Despite the protestations of all Unions
the Department pressed on with publishing a Request for Tender before
Christmas. However CPSU will continue to fight this proposal as it represents
the thin end of the wedge in terms of outsourcing of what is core work, in
circumstances which are highly questionable. Similar schemes in the UK have
been fraught with difficulty as private sector companies sought to work with
those with best prospects of jobs leaving the most disadvantaged behind.
ICTU have written to the Minister on this very point in objecting to the
Department’s proposals and we intend to raise the matter further at the ICTU
Executive Council.
Beir Bua
EOIN RONAYNE
General Secretary
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